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DSCC Turns to Campaign Vets

Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee Chairman Jon Corzine (N.J.) has nearly filled out the senior staff that will be charged with retaking control of the Senate in 2004, sources familiar with the process said Wednesday.

In addition to the hiring of Executive Director Andy Grossman, former DSCC National Campaign Director Paul Tewes has been bumped up to political director, and Benjamin Jones will serve as research director.

“I am so happy to have Paul and Benjamin on our team,” said Corzine. “They are great at what they do.”

The hires, which leave only the communications director job unfilled, are likely to quiet low-level grumbling among some Democrats that Corzine was moving too slowly in putting his team in place. The New Jersey Senator was appointed to head the committee by Minority Leader Thomas Daschle (S.D.) on Dec. 9.

Grossman, Tewes and Jones bring significant institutional knowledge to their new posts.

Grossman is entering his third cycle at the DSCC, having served as political director in the 2002 cycle and as a deputy executive director in 2000. Grossman replaces Jim Jordan, who has left to

manage the presidential campaign of Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.).

Prior to his service as national campaign director in the 2002 cycle, Tewes handled field for then-Vice President Al Gore’s 2000 Iowa caucus victory, and then headed up the coordinated campaign in Washington state during the general election. Gore won the state 50 percent to 45 percent over George W. Bush, and former Rep. Maria Cantwell (D) edged Sen. Slade Gorton (R) by just 2,200 votes of 2.4 million cast.

In 1997 Tewes served as the campaign manager to Minnesota state Sen. Sandy Pappas (D), who ran an unsuccessful race for mayor of St. Paul against the incumbent, Norm Coleman (R).

Steve Hildebrand, a former DSCC political director who worked with Tewes in Iowa, called him “one of the smartest people in politics today.”

“The DSCC is fortunate to have him,” Hildebrand added.

Jones was deputy research director for the DSCC in the 2002 cycle and served as research director at the League of Conservation Voters in 2000. He held the same position for Sen. Max Cleland (D-Ga.) in 1996 and then-Georgia Gov. Zell Miller (D) in 1994.

Mike Gehrke, who headed the research division for the DSCC in the 2002 cycle, now holds that post in the Kerry campaign.

At first glance, Corzine is leading his new charges onto a playing field that is slanted against them. Nineteen Democratic Senators are up for re-election compared to 14 Republicans.

More troubling is that seven Democrats sit in states that Bush carried by 5 points or more in the 2000 presidential election, including North Carolina (13 percent), South Carolina (15 percent), South Dakota (22 percent) and North Dakota (25 percent).

Both Carolinas are certain targets for Republicans. The White House and the National Republican Senatorial Committee are also working hard to recruit former Rep. John Thune (S.D.) and former North Dakota Gov. Ed Schaffer into the Dakota races.

Democrats received a boost in early January when Daschle passed up an expected presidential bid and announced he would run for re-election to the Senate.

One Democrat, however, has already decided not to run in 2004.

Miller bowed out in January, creating a problematic open seat in a state where the party lost Senate and gubernatorial races in 2002.

Democrats have yet to field a candidate for Miller’s seat, though Lt. Gov. Mark Taylor and state Attorney General Thurbert Baker are both contemplating bids and are considered first-tier recruits.

On the Republican side, Rep. Johnny Isakson has already entered the race. State Insurance Commissioner John Oxendine is considered a likely candidate, and Rep. Jack Kingston’s name is also in the mix.

To remain competitive in 2004, Democrats must limit their retirements, especially in tough states like North Carolina and Florida — where Sens. John Edwards (N.C.) and Bob Graham (Fla.) are considered likely presidential candidates — as well as in South Carolina and Louisiana, where Sens. Fritz Hollings (S.C.) and John Breaux (La.) are openly considering bowing out.

Republicans seem to have few obvious vulnerabilities beyond Sen. Peter Fitzgerald (Ill.), who already has five Democrats clamoring for the right to face him in 2004. Gore won Illinois by 14 points in the 2000 presidential election.

Retirements by GOP Sens. Ben Nighthorse Campbell (Colo.) and Don Nickles (Okla.) could create real opportunities for Democrats that are not likely to exist if either incumbent decides to run again. Other GOP-held seats that Democrats are likely to target include Missouri, Pennsylvania and Kentucky.