Pelosi Staff Gets Finishing Touches

Posted April 29, 2003 at 5:44pm

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) has concluded a major reshaping of her leadership office, putting together new communications and outreach teams with an emphasis on reaching out to key interest groups to strengthen the Democratic base and appeal to a larger constituency.

Pelosi also brought on a new chief of staff for her personal office. Terri McCullough has been hired to succeed Carolyn Bartholomew, who recently left the office after 15 years with Pelosi. McCullough had most recently worked in Pelosi’s leadership shop on women’s outreach and will continue to play that role while serving as chief of staff.

Pelosi’s moves follow through on her pledge to reach out to different sectors of the Democratic Caucus as leader. She has hired new aides to reach out to women, rural communities, blacks, Hispanics and Asian Americans.

“She’s talked about diversity being very important to her and she’s trying to put the spotlight on other members of the Caucus,” said Pelosi spokesman Brendan Daly. “This is one of the things she ran on. She believes there is a tremendous wealth of talent in the Democratic Caucus and she wants to showcase that.”

Pelosi has tapped Burns Strider, formerly of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, to work on outreach to rural and agricultural interests; Tracie Pough, also a DCCC vet, to handle outreach to blacks and state and local officials; and Shamina Singh, a former Clinton administration official, to conduct outreach to Asian Americans and health and labor groups.

Also new to the outreach department is Cindy Jimenez, who most recently served as Pelosi’s deputy communications director. Jimenez will focus on outreach to Hispanics and students.

Pelosi has also beefed up her communications team. Beyond current Communications Director Daly and Communications Counsel Melissa Skolfield, Pelosi — who wants Democrats to improve their overall message strategy — is adding seven other new staffers.

Daly said Pelosi has centralized the leadership message responsibilities in her office. Her predecessor, Rep. Richard Gephardt (D-Mo.), relied on his assistant leader, Rep. Rosa DeLauro (Conn.), to handle much of the Caucus communications effort.

“Now these people are on board and we’re being more aggressive about getting our Democratic message out,” Daly said.

For instance, the communications team is attempting to be more proactive with the media to ensure Republican voices are countered, especially on crucial issues such as the economy, health care and homeland security.

Already on board: Stacy Kerr, a former staffer to Rep. Marty Meehan (D-Mass.), to coordinate special events; Gigi Hinton, formerly of America’s Black Forum, to conduct television and black media; Russ Kelley, who recently worked in the Senate minority communications operation, to coordinate with the radio media; Jeff Valliere, most recently in public relations, to oversee Internet and online communications; and Aprill Turner from Rep. Stephen Lynch’s (D-Mass.) office, as a communications assistant. Pelosi also has hired Federico DeJesus to work with Spanish media and Nayyera Haq to work with editorial boards and women’s media.