Shop Talk: Teacher Becomes a Student

Posted October 21, 2009 at 6:20pm

Candidates sign up their consulting teams through the advice of campaign committees, campaign managers and other professional connections.

[IMGCAP(1)]But Missouri Democrat Tommy Sowers, who is mounting an uphill bid against Rep. Jo Ann Emerson (R), signed some of the biggest names on his consultant roster by meeting them through his class at West Point.

Sowers brought in dozens of strategists, operatives and other political types to speak to his American politics class when he served as an assistant professor there for a couple years, including former Democratic National Committee spokeswoman Karen Finney and pollster Jef Pollock. Sowers tried to invite the Obama campaign’s new media director, Joe Rospars, who was friends with one of his students, but they couldn’t work out a visit because of scheduling.

But after Sowers moved back to run for Congress in his hometown of Rolla, Mo., he signed all three for his uphill Congressional bid.

“Tommy had a broad range of political and media figures meet with his students at West Point, from Ari Fleischer to Joe Scarborough to Jef Pollock,— Sowers campaign manager Jonathan Feifs said. “Jef was impressed with Tommy and his story, and we’re excited to be working with him.—

While Finney’s relationship with the campaign is informal and unpaid (she’s “a friend of the campaign—), Rospars’ firm, Blue State Digital, and Pollock’s firm, Global Strategy Group, have signed on the dotted line.

What’s more, Blue State Digital has signed very few House clients this cycle ­— yet another sign that even though Sowers is running in a conservative district, he knows how to make a good first impression.

Sowers will need all of their advice and then some to beat Emerson in a district where she has not received less than 63 percent of the vote since 1996.

Too Many Chiefs in the Kitchen. Florida Gov. Charlie Crist (R) has moved his chief of staff over to run his campaign for Senate in the Sunshine State. Although polls show Crist far ahead of his likely Democratic opponent, he still faces a spirited primary challenge from former state Speaker Marco Rubio next August.

Accordingly, he’s moving his gubernatorial chief of staff, Eric Eikenberg, over to the campaign, where he will serve as manager.

“We are delighted that Eric Eikenberg will serve as campaign manager,— Crist aide Pablo Diaz said.

Eikenberg has served as Crist’s top aide in the governor’s office since January 2008, when he took over for Crist’s former chief of staff, now-Sen. George LeMieux (R). Eikenberg was also chief of staff to former Rep. Clay Shaw (R-Fla.) and served as deputy executive director of the state Republican Party.

The Stewart Show. State Sen. Gilbert Baker (R) has hired former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee’s (R) presidential spokeswoman for his Senate campaign. Alice Stewart will be Baker’s deputy campaign manager and communications director for his bid to win the GOP nomination to face Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark.) in 2010.

Stewart served as Huckabee’s national press secretary on his 2008 presidential bid and recently worked as communications director for the Arkansas Republican Party.

Seals With a Kiss. Marketing consultant Dan Seals (D) has a few familiar faces working on his third bid to win the suburban Chicago seat that Rep. Mark Kirk (R) is vacating.

Kirk is leaving to run for Senate, and both Seals and state Rep. Julie Hamos are running in the Feb. 2 primary for the Democratic nomination.

Seals has tapped the Strategy Group to do his mail and Adelstein Liston to do the media for his third try to win the 10th district seat. Meanwhile, campaign manager Patrick Mogge is also running the show for Seals for a third time.

But Seals has also brought a few new faces to the table, including polling firm Anzalone Liszt Research and research firm Link Strategies. Also new to the campaign are Finance Director Mimi Rodman, Field Director Erik Smith, Political Director Barb Cornew and Treasurer Harry Pascal.

Hamos has also put her campaign team in place, and the team includes several new aides to the 10-year state Representative.

Campaign manager Julie Sweet most recently managed author Tom Geoghegan’s (D) long-shot special election bid in the 5th district, which was won by now-Rep. Mike Quigley (D-Ill.). Field Director Russell Griffin served in the same capacity for Rep. Donna Edwards’ (D-Md.) triumphant primary bid over then-Rep. Albert Wynn (D-Md.). Political Director Eric Danko is a former campaign aide for Rep. Debbie Halvorson (D-Ill.), while Finance Director Kari Lundstad-Vogt most recently served as a job bank coordinator at EMILY’s List.

They are joined by Press Secretary Christopher Lackner, who most recently worked with Sweet on Geoghegan’s special election bid.

Hamos has also signed up Will Robinson and Tierney Hunt of the New Media Firm to do her media, Diane Feldman and Melissa Diemand of the Feldman Group to do her polling, Lloyd Betourney of the Public Response Group to do her direct mail and Brett Di Resta of the Maccabee Group to do her media.

GAINing a New Job. Democratic GAIN, a membership association that helps activists get training and find employment with progressive organizations, has tapped one of its former staffers, Alexandra Acker Lyons, to be the group’s new executive director.

Lyons most recently ran Young Democrats of America as its executive director. She also served as Democratic GAIN’s training director in 2005.

Lyons succeeds Nikki Enfield, who left the organization for a gig with Englin Consulting.

Submit campaign staffing news and tips to Shop Talk here.