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Shop Talk: Palmetto House Special Attracts Top Operatives

With the primary a week away, the South Carolina special election to fill Republican Sen. Tim Scott’s former seat is luring top GOP talent to the state during an otherwise slow time in the campaign cycle.

Former Republican Gov. Mark Sanford, a leading contender in the race for the 1st District, built a campaign staff filled with former aides. Other GOP candidates hired notable operatives from South Carolina — a state crowded with consultants thanks to its first-in-the-South presidential primary calendar status.

Notably, one possible 2016 GOP presidential contender has a continued presence in the Palmetto State with a pair of 2012 campaign veterans. State Rep. Andy Patrick’s campaign team includes former Sen. Rick Santorum’s campaign manager, Mike Biundo, and deputy national communications director, Matt Beynon.

No GOP candidate is expected to win the March 19 primary outright, given the large field of contenders. The top two vote recipients will proceed to the runoff April 2.

Here are GOP candidates’ notable staff hires:

Sanford tapped former top aide and gubernatorial campaign manager Jason Miller of Jamestown Associates to serve as his general consultant, media and mail guru for his much-hyped comeback bid. Sanford also hired Voter/Consumer Research for polling and Joel Sawyer of Push Digital for new media.

Teddy Turner tapped Rob Blizzard of Public Opinion Strategies as his pollster, Nick Everhart of The Strategy Group for Media to do his advertisements, and Michael Clingaman of Stoneridge Group for his direct mail.

Former state Sen. John Kuhn hired Baselice and Associates for his polling, Walter Whetsell and Le Price of Starboard Communications for political consulting and Lucas Baiano of Vision Films for commercial production.

State Sen. Larry Grooms hired Hogan Gidley of Brabender Cox for media and political consulting.

State Rep. Chip Limehouse is working with Humphreys and Co. for media and The Hopper Group for direct mail.

Attorney Curtis Bostic brought on Barnfly Productions for commercial production and Washington Political Group for polling.

Patrick hired Beynon of Madison Strategic Ventures for his press outreach, plus Biundo, Derek Dufresne and Kory Wood of RightOn Strategies as general consultants and Robert “RJ” May for grass-roots outreach.

Likely Democratic nominee Elizabeth Colbert Busch has an uphill climb in this solidly GOP district. But the sister of famous TV comedian Stephen Colbert has money and well-established firms on her side.

Fraioli and Associates and Kristin Oblander of The Oblander Group will raise funds for Colbert Busch. Celina Lake of Lake Research Partners will be her pollster, and Steve Murphy of Murphy Vogel Askew Reilly will do her media. And Dave Gold of Gold Communications rounds out her team.

Little Rocking the South

Safe Foods Corp. CEO Curtis Coleman, a Republican running for governor in Arkansas, announced he signed up FP1 Strategies for his 2014 bid. The firm boasts Terry Nelson, Jon Downs, Danny Diaz and Rob Jesmer as partners.

Last week, FP1 hired Jessica Ennis as a senior vice president. Before this new job, Ennis served as deputy director of operations for Romney’s presidential campaign and as a regional political director for the Republican National Committee.

The Ryan Plan

EMILY’s List named Melissa Ryan as its digital department director for the 2014 cycle. Ryan worked on President Barack Obama’s campaign, as well as former Sen. Russ Feingold’s unsuccessful 2010 re-election race.

Chelsea Lately

The National Republican Senatorial Committee named Chelsea Hawker as its new deputy political director under Ward Baker. Previously, Hawker worked at the RNC, Murphy Turner and Associates, and Majority Strategies.

Sparks Flying in New Jersey

The New Jersey Republican Party named Ben Sparks as its new communications director.

Sparks served as the Romney campaign’s communications director in Wisconsin and previously worked on Gov. Scott Walker’s recall campaign. Sparks spent the 2010 cycle working for the Ohio Republican Party and Sen. Rob Portman’s successful campaign.

GOP State Leadership Staffs Up

The Republican State Leadership Committee rolled out its political and communications team Monday.

Former Romney campaign staffer John Loe joins the committee as assistant communications director under current Communications Director Jill Bader.

Micah Ketchel, a former National Republican Congressional Committee staffer, joins the RSLC as the new research and compliance director.

Neri Martinez will head up RSLC’s Future Majority Project, while Will Martinez is set to lead the group’s .GOP initiative.

The announcement included two promotions: Matt Walter is the new managing director for political and communications, and Caitlin Reed was bumped to polling and data director.

Let’s Be Frank About It

New Jersey Democratic operative Sean Darcy joined Rep. Frank Pallone Jr.’s political team, the Newark Star-Ledger reported.

Darcy spent part of 2012 on Rep. Bill Pascrell Jr.’s successful member-vs.-member race against former Rep. Steven R. Rothman.

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

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