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Bay State Democrats Search for New Party Leader | Shop Talk

With a flurry of races ahead, Massachusetts Democrats are in the process of electing a new party chairman. But the state party’s unique bylaws mean the lucky new leader might have an extra roadblock on the way.

Massachusetts Democratic Party Chairman John Walsh announced in July that he would step down from his position this fall to join Democratic Gov. Deval Patrick’s political arm, Together PAC. So far, there is no obvious front-runner in the race to replace him.

“I know there are some folks talking about it,” Walsh said in a Monday phone interview with CQ Roll Call. “Our top-of-the-ticket elected officials will have some say.”

Only state party committee members are eligible to run for chairman. As a result, in theory, two of the more often-mentioned contenders, state Rep. Jeffrey Sanchez and attorney Warren Tolman, are disqualified from pursuing the top job. Another potential candidate for chairman, former Patrick hired hand David O’Brien, is already on the state committee.

But the state party’s treasurer, a member of the state committee, is stepping down as well. The vacancy will allow an outsider to run for treasurer in September and join the party’s official leadership ranks.

The short-timer could win the treasurer’s spot, then run for chairman on Oct. 17. The rule also means candidates must decide quickly whether to pursue the chairmanship.

Sanchez floated his name as a contender last week to The Boston Globe. Tolman was not immediately available for comment; local Democrats named few others who might be interested.

Walsh declined to comment on the field but projected that any interested candidate, especially those not already on the committee, have about a two-week window to enter the race.

Walsh’s to-be-determined successor will have a busy cycle, as the next couple of years will feature major races. This fall there’s a race for mayor in Boston, as well as a special election to replace Democratic Sen. Edward J. Markey.

Next year, voters will pick Patrick’s successor and decide whether Markey gets a full term, plus Democratic Rep. John F. Tierney faces a tough re-election fight. In fact, the state’s ongoing political churn has some Democrats concerned about the state party’s infrastructure.

“There seems to be a pretty heavy outflow of people at the party to go work on the races,” a Democratic consultant said.

Another Messenger for AKPD

AKPD Message and Media announced Monday that Mike Donilon, a former senior adviser to Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., joined the Democratic firm as a partner in its Washington, D.C., office.

The firm also announced Isaac Baker’s promotion to partner to the Washington, D.C., office, and the upping of Sarah Hegeman as vice president of production in the firm’s Chicago office. Jon Fromowitz has also joined AKPD as a senior strategist in the New York office.

Planet Mercury

Stefan Friedman will move to the Los Angeles office of Mercury Public Affairs. A former New York Post reporter, Friedman leaves his post as a managing director at SKDKnickerbocker.

“Stefan’s knowledge and expertise of not just the press — but of strategy, policy and politics — makes him an ideal fit as we expand our Los Angeles presence,” Adam Mendelsohn, a partner at Mercury’s California office, said in a press release.

Koch Is It!

The Colorado Democratic Party named Jennifer Koch as its new executive director. The outgoing executive director, Alec Garnett, is running for the state legislature.

A veteran of President Barack Obama’s 2008 campaign, Koch went on to serve in the White House as a deputy liaison for the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Dear John

Democratic operative John Hagner recently joined Clarity Campaign Labs, a Democratic political firm, as a senior vice president.

Hagner’s résumé includes work for the Democratic National Committee, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee.

Rounding Out the Team

Former South Dakota Gov. Mike Rounds recently named Mitch Krebs as the communications director for the Republican’s Senate campaign. It is a homecoming for Krebs, a former journalist and television news anchor who served as Rounds’ press secretary during the governor’s second term.

Rounds’ team includes Dick Wadhams, who joined as general consultant in May. Rounds is running to replace Democratic Sen. Tim Johnson, who is retiring.

Media Matters Hires Outreach Director

Media Matters for America, a liberal nonprofit media watch group, recently hired Zeke Stokes as its new director of outreach. Stokes leaves his post as a communications director for Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, where he advocated on lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender issues.

Stokes got his start in South Carolina politics “at age 19 as the youngest director of communications for a State Democratic Party in the country,” according to a release.

Please send news of developments in the political industry to shoptalk@rollcall.com and follow us on Twitter @RCShopTalk.

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