Merger Mania: Democratic Polling Firms May Join Forces

Posted September 3, 2003 at 6:20pm

The Democratic consulting world is on the verge of a major shakeup as Hickman Research and Global Strategy Group are considering a merge into one powerhouse polling firm, according to Democratic sources.

Ken Sunshine, a spokesman for Global Strategy Group, confirmed Wednesday that “discussions are ongoing,” but said that no definite agreement has been reached.

“Stay tuned,” he said.

The likely pairing is a major step up for Global Strategy Group, which to this point had primarily handled House races in the Northeast.

Harrison Hickman, on the other hand, is one of the major figures in the Democratic survey research world.

He got his start under the late Bill Hamilton, leaving to start a polling firm with Paul Maslin in 1985. Five years later, Maslin and Hickman split, and Hickman moved Kirk Brown into a partner role to form Hickman Brown Research. Maslin joined the California-based firm Fairbanks, Maslin Maullin.

Brown left the Hickman firm after the 2002 cycle to become Wisconsin Gov. Jim Doyle’s (D) policy director.

Neither Hickman nor Jef Pollack, a partner in GSG, chose to comment on the potential merger Wednesday.

A look at the political clients that the two firms handled in the past cycle show that a unified company would have extensive reach across the country.

Hickman did the polling for the winning campaigns of Doyle, Sen. Mark Pryor (D-Ark.), Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell (D) and Rep. Dutch Ruppersberger (D-Md.).

The firm came out on the losing end of a Senate race in Idaho as well as in gubernatorial contests in Alabama, Arkansas, Maryland and South Dakota.

Hickman was one of several pollsters employed by the presidential campaign of then-Vice President Al Gore in 2000.

He is currently handling the polling for the presidential campaign of Sen. John Edwards (N.C.) and is also the pollster of choice for state Superintendent of Education Inez Tenenbaum, who is running for the Senate in South Carolina.

GSG had a slightly more successful —though significantly less high profile — in the 2002 cycle, with wins in Arizona’s 7th district, California’s 39th and New York’s 2nd and 4th.

The firm lost races for Connecticut governor, Rep. Jim Maloney’s (Conn.) re-election bid, as well as open-seat contests in Michigan’s 11th and Pennsylvania’s 6th.

If the merger does come to pass, the new firm would join Garin-Hart-Yang Research Inc., Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research, The Mellman Group and Lake Snell Perry & Associates Inc. as the major players in Democratic polling circles.

Asked about the potential new company, one rival Democratic consultant said: “I’m not sure it’s a match made in heaven.”

However, the source conceded: “It clearly makes them bigger players.”