Love the Govs

Posted October 19, 2005 at 6:46pm

A group of young Democratic operatives thinks it has found the key to getting more Democrats elected president: Nominate governors.

Although it has been around for five years, the group, known as the Campaign for a National Majority, has begun to ramp up its activities as it peddles its argument about the importance of finding a governor to be the Democratic presidential nominee.

The group was formed after the 2000 election. A brain child of two law students and a college undergraduate, it is headed by tri-founder Alex Laskey.

Laskey worked in the Clinton White House and on the the Gore-Lieberman campaign.

The group’s goal is to back mayoral and statewide candidates in the hopes of building a strong farm team of Democratic gubernatorial candidates.

Governors make the best presidential timber, according to the group’s research, said spokesman Ross Chanin.

Calling itself a “pragmatic political action committee,” the registered 527 believes it’s filling a niche missed by other groups.

“It is no secret that governors consistently make the best presidential candidates,” the campaign’s Web site reads. “Their experience as state executives prepares them for higher leadership and encourages them to articulate innovative policies and messages. The best governors are typically elected from other state executive offices, like lieutenant-governor or attorney-general.”

Chanin said the group uses a tough, exhaustive research process in deciding whom to back. There are no litmus tests and it is not a popularity contest, unlike some prominent groups, such as Democracy of America, which hands out endorsements via online polls, he said.

“It’s about who can win,” Chanin said.

This year the group has taken its first major plunge, endorsing six Democrats out of 390 considered. They are: Chris Coleman, who is vying to become mayor of St. Paul, Minn., and is not related to Sen. Norm Coleman (R-Minn.); Atlanta Mayor Shirley Franklin; Creigh Deeds, who is running for attorney general in Virginia; Jun Choi, who is seeking the mayor’s post in Edison, N.J.; Ed Pawlowski, running for mayor of Allentown, Pa.; and David Pepper, who hopes to become mayor of Cincinnati.

The campaign plans to endorse and fundraise for candidates next year as well, but it will not play in state legislative or Congressional races.

Media Star. Jessica Keegan has joined Edmonds Associates as a vice president.

Keegan will oversee account services from the Republican political consulting and media firm’s Tyson’s Corner, Va., office.

Keegan, who leaves Sullivan Higdon & Sink, will focus on business development and the firm’s association clients, which include the National Rifle Association, National Federation of Independent Business and the Legal Defense Fund.

Republican Mouthpiece. Dan Ronayne has been named press secretary of the National Republican Senatorial Committee.

Ronayne, who left the Senate Republican Conference earlier this year to pitch in at the NRSC, will focus on the Northeast, as well as races in key states such as Ohio and West Virginia.

NRSC Communications Director Brian Nick is expected to hire a regional spokesperson to round out the press shop soon.

Another Pirro-ette. The Westchester County district attorney who wants to take on Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) next year has snagged a Capitol Hill press secretary.

Jeanine Pirro (R) signed Andrea Tantaros on to her campaign as communications director. Tantaros leaves her job as press secretary to the House Republican Conference.

Bell Ringers. Veterinarian Ford Bell (D) has begun rounding out his Senate campaign team as he hopes to capture the open seat being vacated by Sen. Mark Dayton (D-Minn.).

Bell, president of the Minneapolis Heart Institute Foundation, has tapped former Dean for America staffer David Lilly to run his campaign.

Christopher McCleary of McCleary and Associates is serving as finance director.

McCleary worked for America Coming Together in Florida during last year’s presidential campaign. Prior to that, he worked for an array of Congressional and state campaigns while with Hayden, McCleary and Associates.

Mark Oyaas, a principal with the public affairs and consulting group Neerland & Oyaas, has been serving as a voluntary spokesman while the Bell campaign searches for a media consultant.

Jason Stanford of the Austin, Texas-based Stanford Research firm is handling research.

Bell is vying against Hennepin County Attorney Amy Klobuchar and child safety advocate Patty Wetterling for the Democratic nomination in the Gopher State.

Rep. Mark Kennedy (R) essentially has the GOP field to himself in what is expected to be a hotly contested race.

Get a Yob. Michigan Senate candidate Jerry Zandstra (R) scored more than just a general consultant when he signed the scion of a Michigan GOP operative onto his underdog campaign.

John Patrick Yob bucked his father, Michigan Republican National Committeeman Chuck Yob, when he agreed to advise the Grand Rapids minister’s campaign.

The elder Yob, along with most of the state’s Republican establishment, is backing the Rev. Keith Butler (R) in his bid for the right to challenge Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) next year.

The younger Yob said: “Dad and I disagree on this race. Whereas he thinks Keith Butler is good for the party, I think Jerry Zandstra is good for Michigan.”

John Patrick Yob, who works for the Grand Rapids-based Strategic Consulting, consulted Michigan Secretary of State Terri Lynn Land (R) in her successful bid for that office. He also worked on the campaign of state Attorney General Mike Cox (R).

Zandstra trails Butler badly in the money and endorsement chase so far.

Brown(ie) Troop. Rhode Island Secretary of State Matt Brown (D) has rounded out his Senate campaign staff.

Election law attorney Dennis Newman recently was named campaign manager.

Newman was the lead counsel for the Gore-Lieberman campaign during the Florida recount in 2000. He also served the Clinton-Gore campaign as field director.

Brown also added Paul DiNino, a former Democratic National Committee finance director, to his national fundraising team as well as Ashley Watson, a former aide to Democratic West Virginia Sens. Robert Byrd and Jay Rockefeller.

Robert Pilon was named state finance director.

Campaign spokesman Matt Burgess was officially named communications director, and Tori Drew, who previously worked for Columbia Records, oversees campaign operations.

MacWilliams, Robinson and Partners is serving as media consultant.

Brown is squaring off with former Rhode Island Attorney General Sheldon Whitehouse for the Democratic nomination.

Taking the Rappaport. A Democratic activist is taking a cue from her venture capitalist husband to help launch progressive groups.

Deborah Rappaport, who along with her husband Andy Rappaport, spent $5 million to unseat President Bush last year, has formed the New Progressive Coalition, the San Jose Mercury News reported this week.

The fundraising scheme steals venture capitalists’ methods to help the groups form and stay afloat.

Calling donors “investors” and the fledgling political groups “start-ups, the goal is to get the money to the brightest ideas,” the paper reported. “And, just like eBay and its well-honed feedback system, the members will rate ideas and organizations on the coalition’s Web site. Top rating: five stars.”

For more information, visit www.newprogressivecoalition.com.

Elections Going Postal. As voting by mail has gotten more popular, the U.S. Postal Service has designed an online tool for election officials.

At www.usps.com/electionmail, the Postal Service walks election officials through the definition of “election mail” and provides tools and resources to help them address and design election mail.