Shop Talk: Winners and Losers

Posted June 10, 2009 at 6:36pm

By now there’s been ample dissection of state Sen. Creigh Deeds’ come-from-behind win in Virginia’s Democratic gubernatorial primary Tuesday.

[IMGCAP(1)]But here’s a rundown of the winners and losers among the consultants working on the race that pitted Deeds against former Democratic National Committee Chairman Terry McAuliffe and former state Del. Brian Moran, the brother of Rep. Jim Moran (D-Va.).

Deeds’ winning consulting team consisted of David Dixon of Dixon/Davis Media Group, David Petts and Jill Normington of Bennett Petts & Normington, Kevin Mack of Mack Crounse Group and New Partners Consulting Inc., the firm founded by Democratic strategist Paul Tewes.

Mack worked to help elect now-Rep. Tom Perriello (D-Va.) in 2008, and Normington was part of the consulting team for now-Rep. Glenn Nye’s (D-Va.) 2008 campaign. Petts has been Deeds’ longtime pollster.

Deeds’ campaign manager is Joe Abbey, who was deputy campaign manager for now-Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) in 2008.

The losers in the race include several well-known strategists with experience winning campaigns in the Old Dominion. Among them are Mike Henry, who managed McAuliffe’s campaign, and Mo Elleithee, a McAuliffe senior strategist.

Henry ran Virginia Democrats’ coordinated campaign in 2001, when Warner was elected governor, and then he managed Gov. Tim Kaine’s (D) successful 2005 campaign. Elleithee is also a Warner veteran.

McAuliffe used Peter Brodnitz for polling, Hal Malchow for mail and GMMB for media. Brodnitz and Malchow worked on Kaine’s 2005 race.

The losers in Moran’s camp include Steve Jarding, who managed Warner’s 2001 campaign and Sen. Jim Webb’s (D-Va.) 2006 upset win. Joe Trippi, best known for his work on then-Vermont Gov. Howard Dean’s (D) 2004 presidential race, was a Moran media consultant. Mame Reiley, who has long-held ties to Jim Moran and has also worked for Warner, was Brian Moran’s campaign chairwoman.

Oh, Shannon. The Herald Group has named Shannon Flaherty to the position of vice president as the bipartisan consulting firm continues to beef up its public affairs practice.

Flaherty has served in policy and press roles for several GOP House Members, including former Reps. Jennifer Dunn (Wash.), Deborah Pryce (Ohio) and Tom DeLay (Texas), the one-time Majority Leader. Since leaving Capitol Hill, Flaherty managed grass-roots, communications and media projects for DeLay’s consulting firm, First Principles.

“The Herald Group is redefining the traditional client-agency model as we know it,— Flaherty said in a statement. “Unlike most public affairs firms, we recognize the need to partner aggressive campaign-style strategies and senior-level practitioners with politically-potent messaging delivered through a creative mix of standard communications and new media channels.—

I’m With Joe. Rep. Joe Sestak (D-Pa.) could retain much of his campaign team from his previous two Congressional races for his bid against Sen. Arlen Specter (D-Pa.) in 2010. Even though Specter has the backing of Democratic leadership and the White House, Sestak has indicated he plans to challenge the Senator in the primary next year.

Media consultant J.J. Balaban of the Campaign Group said he would be happy to help Sestak run statewide in 2010.

“We were proud to help Joe Sestak topple a longtime Republican legislator in 2006 and we’d be proud to help him do the same thing in 2010,— Balaban wrote in an e-mail. “If you talk to Joe’s constituents, they’ll tell you what a great Congressman he has been. He’d present a strong alternative to a lifelong politician like Arlen Specter who voted for George Bush’s failed economic policies, war in Iraq, and right-wing judicial nominees.—

Balaban works with Campaign Group founder Neil Oxman, who advised Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell (D) on his victorious statewide campaigns. Rendell not only backs Specter for re-election in 2010, but he also brokered the deal for the 29-year Republican to switch parties.

Sestak’s pollster from last cycle, Dave Petts of Bennett, Petts and Normington, did not return a request for comment on whether he would stay with the two-term House Democrat for his Senate bid.

A notoriously tough boss and indefatigable fundraiser, Sestak has always relied on his close family to help him with his campaigns and will likely do so again if he runs statewide.

Sestak’s campaign cautioned that no final decisions have been made yet about staffing a statewide bid, but in a statement, the Congressman called his brother, Richard Sestak, and sister, Elizabeth Sestak, “the driving force on my campaign staff— since 2006.

A River Runs Through It. Former Republican Senate spokesman Matt Mackowiak has launched the Potomac Strategy Group, a GOP political consulting and public affairs firm based in Washington, D.C., and Austin, Texas. The PSG plans to consult Congressional campaigns and other organizations on media relations, crisis communications and writing services.

Mackowiak already counts New York Assemblyman Greg Ball (R), who is running against Rep. John Hall (D-N.Y.), and Texas Railroad Commissioner Michael Williams (R) as clients. Williams is preparing to run for the Senate seat held by Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Texas), Mackowiak’s old boss.

Originally from Austin, Mackowiak most recently served a press secretary for Hutchison and before that worked for then-Sen. Conrad Burns (R-Mont.).

Team Tiahrt. Rep. Todd Tiahrt (R-Kan.) has put together his full consulting team for his 2010 Senate bid. Tiahrt and Rep. Jerry Moran (R-Kan.) are running for the seat of retiring Sen. Sam Brownback (R).

Tiahrt will use the Victory Group for his media, while McLaughlin & Associates will do his polling. Red Sky Group will do Tiahrt’s research, and Majority Strategies will do his direct mail.

The Townsend Group will handle Tiahrt’s political action committee fundraising, while the Dublin Group will raise funds in Kansas. Tiahrt’s campaign picked Response America to do his direct-mail fundraising and Advantage Inc. to do his TeleForum and phone outreach.

The Cottington Group and Harbinger International will do Tiahrt’s internet messaging and fundraising, according to a list of the chosen firms obtained by Roll Call.

Tiahrt has used several of these firms before: The Victory Group, the Dublin Group and McLaughlin & Associates were listed on his 2008 re-election campaign fundraising reports.

Nutmeg Mix. Former Rep. Rob Simmons (R-Conn.) has picked the media and direct-mail firms to work on his race against Sen. Chris Dodd (D-Conn.) in what will likely be one of the most competitive Senate races in the country.

Simmons has signed the firm SRCP Media — formerly known as Stevens, Reed Curcio and Potholm — for his bid, with Paul Curcio as the lead consultant. The former House Member also signed Olsen & Shuvalov to do his direct mail. Simmons faces two opponents in the GOP primary, but he is the favored nominee of national Republicans.

It’s All About the Chase. GMMB has tapped Oonie Chase to be their digital director and senior vice president. Chase comes from Blast Radius, where she was executive creative director.

Chase will guide the digital practice, according to a release from the firm. She is GMMB’s second big-rent technology and Internet hire: The firm picked up Obama Internet staffer and Facebook co-founder Chris Hughes earlier this year.

Mo’ Biz for Kombiz. The burgeoning Democratic firm New Partners Consulting Inc. has added yet another staffer to its roster: Kombiz Lavasany has been named the firm’s director of new media.

Lavasany comes from the Democratic National Committee, where he served for two years as the director of online outreach.

New Partners, which is headed by Paul Tewes, a top strategist on President Barack Obama’s presidential campaign, now boasts a growing staff of eight partners and 16 staffers since it was founded earlier this year.

Lauren W. Whittington contributed to this report.

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