Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker's political operation has lured one of the top Republican communicators in the Senate away from the chamber.
Walker's bringing on AshLee Strong, the spokeswoman for the Senate Republican Conference, as national press secretary to be based in Madison, a Walker aide confirmed to CQ Roll Call. She has worked for Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., for more than four years, most recently as senior communications director and chief spokesperson, and is departing the Senate after the Republicans regained the majority.
"AshLee has been a trusted advisor of mine for several years so this is bittersweet for me. I’m sad to see her go but this is a tremendous opportunity for her," Thune said in a statement. "She's one of the smartest communicators out there and Gov. Walker is fortunate to have her on his team."
In addition to serving as chairman of the Conference, Thune is also the chairman of the Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee.
It is expected that Strong would transition from the PAC to a Walker presidential bid should one be launched for 2016.
The news of Strong's pending departure, which was reported earlier Thursday by Politico , was met with a mixture of disappointment for the Senate but excitement for her by many around the Capitol as the news spread.
"AshLee is a remarkably talented communicator and a fantastic colleague. She has been a tremendous asset to the Conference and she will be missed by me and by her many other friends on the Hill," said the top spokesman for Senate Republicans, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell's deputy chief of staff Don Stewart.
Antonia Ferrier, a longtime Capitol Hill aide who recently started working for McConnell at the Senate Republican Communications Center, also praised her.
"Smart, savvy and poised are all words to describe AshLee," Ferrier said. "She’s done tremendous work for the Senate Republican Conference. Frankly, there’s no question of the mark she’s left. She will be greatly missed."
Before starting in Thune's office, Strong, a native of Montana, worked for current Sen. Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia during her time in the House, as well as the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee and across town at the Office of National Drug Control Policy.
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