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Best Defense a Strong Offense

Officially, the Children’s Defense Fund is still a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization. But its new leadership team — pieced together during the past six months — has a decidedly political edge. CDF President Marian Wright Edelman makes no secret of the fact that she views fighting President Bush’s agenda as the agency’s principal role.

“In this first decade of the 21st century, children face the most dangerous time since the Children’s Defense Fund began [30 years ago],” Edelman said in a statement. “We must organize, mobilize and communicate in new ways to meet new challenges.”

New CDF hires include: Paula Jameson, a former senior vice president at the Public Broadcasting Service, as executive vice president and chief operating officer; Jim Jones, a former top aide to Sens. John Kerry (D-Mass.) and Patty

Murray (D-Wash.), as vice president for programs and policy; Donna Lawrence, who headed the CDF New York office for 11 years, as vice president for field operations and outreach; Janice Wilson, a former executive vice president of Maryland Public Television, as the new vice president for development; and Donna Whitt, who has worked for the Electronics Industry Alliance, as the new chief financial officer.

Patricia Alford Williams, former Charlotte Observer editorial writer and director of communications for the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies, will head the CDF national communications office. Kyle Good, a former CBS and NBC TV producer and director, will head the regional communications office in New York. Toby Chadhuri, a former deputy press secretary to Al Gore’s presidential campaign, will be CDF’s national press secretary.

Door Women. The 14th annual Women Opening Doors for Women event is taking place tonight at several venues around town. The event, sponsored by Women’s Information Network, is where accomplished Democratic women — officeholders, consultants, top-level staffers and so on — get together with young women interested in following similar career paths.

The evening begins with a reception at AFL-CIO headquarters and a speech by Rep. Loretta Sanchez (D-Calif.). Then participants will attend one of 24 dinners, depending on their career and/or political interests.

Topics at these dinners include launching a career on Capitol Hill; the mechanics of winning campaigns; reproductive rights; war and peace, and more. Speakers include ber-consultant Donna Brazile; Patricia Ireland, executive director of the YWCA; Jill Alper and Minyon Moore of the Dewey Square Group; Caroline Frederickson, chief of staff to Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.); Anna Greenberg of Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research Inc.; and Kori Bernards of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.

It may not be too late to participate. For more information, call (202) 347-2827 or go to

The Women’s Vote. Speaking of young Democrats and women, the Democratic National Committee has a new director of its Women’s Vote Center, which was founded two years ago to increase women’s participation in electoral politics. Christy Agner is also a Democratic National committeewoman who coordinates the party’s program to recruit and help Democratic candidates younger than 35.

Agner is a former director of state and local government affairs at the American Institute of Architects. She is also a charter board member of Lillian’s List, a fundraising network for women Democratic candidates for the Legislature in North Carolina who support abortion rights.

Rising Star. Who says you can’t parlay your time at a state political party into personal political success?

Luke Messer, executive director of the Indiana Republican Party, was just sworn in as a member of the Indiana House of Representatives. Messer, a Capitol Hill veteran who has also worked as a political consultant, was named by local Republicans to fill the remaining 19 months of a vacancy created when state Rep. W. Roland Stine (R) died recently in a car crash.

Messer is a former subcommittee counsel to the House Government Reform subcommittee for energy policy, natural resources and regulatory affairs. He is also a former legal counsel for Rep. John Duncan (R-Tenn.) and was press secretary to then-Rep. Ed Bryant (R-Tenn.). And he worked as a consultant for Russo Marsh Inc., a D.C.-based consulting firm.

While serving in the Legislature, Messer, who ran unsuccessfully for Congress in Indiana’s 2nd district two cycles ago, will keep his day job as director of the state party.

Inspiration? Perhaps Messer’s elevation will serve as inspiration for these two: Dorothy Melanson, a longtime party activist and former chairwoman of her county Democratic organization, was just elected chairwoman of the Maine Democratic Party and Barry Rubin, a veteran of Maryland Democratic politics and government, will be relocating to Omaha to take over next month as executive director of the Nebraska Democratic Party.

The Santorum Factor. Democrats are crowing over the defection of a gay Republican state legislator in New Hampshire.

State Rep. Corey Corbin last week switched from the GOP to the Democratic Party, citing the Republicans’ intolerance on homosexuality as part of the reason.

“One of the motivating factors in my decision to leave the GOP were the comments of U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Pa.), in which he likened homosexuality to incest, bestiality and an immoral lifestyle,” Corbin said a statement released this week by the National Stonewell Democrats organization. “Being a gay man and, up until this week, a Republican, those comments truly summed up for me the attitude of the GOP towards the millions of gay men and women who work, raise families, pay taxes, and contribute to our society.”

Corbin, 33, was first elected in 2000. His defection won’t have much effect on the balance of power in the massive state House, however: Before his switch, Republicans held a 281-119 seat edge.

New People. People For the American Way Foundation, the educational 501c(3) arm of the liberal advocacy group, has filled several key positions.

Nick Ucci will be the organization’s executive vice president and chief financial officer, a new position. Previously, he served as executive vice president and chief operating officer at the Health Care Chaplaincy in New York. He also spent more than two decades at Common Cause.

Vicky Beasly, an attorney in private practice, will be PFAWF’s new deputy national field director. And the Rev. Romal Tune, a former minister at Metropolitan Baptist Church in Washington, will be an organizer and liaison to clergy who try to mobilize public participation in civic affairs.

While all three new hires may do some work for People For the American Way, the activist arm of the organization, the bulk of their work will be for — and their paychecks will come from — the educational side.

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