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Democratic Polling Firms Merge

The merger between Democratic polling firms Global Strategy Group and Hickman Research became official Tuesday.

“We are thrilled to team with Harrison Hickman, one of the pioneers of organized research,” said GSG CEO Jonathan Silvan.

The move is seen as a major step up in the political world for GSG, which had previously concentrated on Northeastern House races. Hickman is one of the most highly regarded pollsters in the party and is currently handling the presidential campaign of Sen. John Edwards (D-N.C.) — a race where GSG is also involved.

Talks about joining forces began during the 2000 presidential campaign of then-Vice President Al Gore, for whom both firms were working. Hickman was one of the lead pollsters in that campaign.

“Working on these national campaigns, we’ve developed a methodology and camaraderie that will serve our clients for years to come,” said GSG President Jef Pollock.

The new firm, Global Strategy Group, will have offices in Washington, D.C., Hartford, Conn., and New York City.

Its client list, which includes six sitting Senators as well as 16 House Members, places it among the titans of the Democratic polling world, a group that includes Garin-Hart-Yang Research Inc., Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research, The Mellman Group, Cooper & Secrest Associates, and Lake Snell Perry & Associates Inc. Son of South Moving North. Republican pollster Whit Ayres is the newest resident of Alexandria, Va., after relocating his firm — Ayres, McHenry and Associates —to the nation’s capital earlier this month.

“This is the center of our industry,” explained Ayres, who founded the Atlanta-based firm in 1991. “Being a pollster and not being in Washington is like being a country music singer and not being in Nashville.”

Over the past decade, Ayres has emerged as one of the most prominent pollsters for Southern Republicans, handling the survey research for former Sen. Paul Coverdell’s (Ga.) 1992 election, Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist’s (Tenn.) 1994 victory, Sen. Lamar Alexander’s (Tenn.) successful 2002 race and his unsuccessful 1996 presidential campaign, among many others.

Ayres’ expertise in the region comes from his years spent as a political science professor at the University of South Carolina as well as his time as policy and budget director — and pollster — for former Palmetto State Gov. Carroll Campbell (R).

Thomas’ Protégé Advances. In California, House Ways and Means Chairman Bill Thomas’ (R) so-called Bakersfield Mafia is legendary.

This week, one of Thomas’ protégés made good: State Assemblyman Kevin McCarthy (R) was elected Assembly Minority Leader by fellow Republicans.

McCarthy, former director of Thomas’ district office and considered a possible successor to Thomas whenever the chairman retires, will assume the new post in January 2004. He’ll replace Assembly Minority Leader Dave Cox, who is stepping down from his leadership job to concentrate on a run for state Senate in 2004.

New Blood, Old Hands. Andy Rosenberg, the 30-something lawyer who is preparing to challenge Rep. Jim Moran (D-Va.) in the Democratic primary next year, has assembled an experienced team of consultants.

Jim Crounse, the direct-mail guru who recently joined the firm Winning Directions, will handle direct mail for Rosenberg. Shrum, Devine and Donilon has been hired as the media consultant. And Rachel Hirschberg, who until recently was senior finance vice president at the New Democrat Network before striking out on her own as a consultant, is the finance director.

Rosenberg is not the only primary challenger to Moran in what could be a very volatile election. Fairfax County Board Chairwoman Kate Hanley is also running; state Sen. Leslie Byrne and lawyer Jeremy Bash could also run.

The Gist of It. Sen. Joe Lieberman’s (D-Conn.) presidential campaign has added a senior adviser who will handle outreach to the black community and focus on general field operations. And the campaign has given its communications director the additional title of deputy campaign director.

Harold Gist is the new senior adviser. He is a veteran of the Clinton White House, the Democratic National Committee and various Democratic presidential campaigns dating back to 1988. Most recently he has worked as a managing principal of the Lancer Group, a public affairs consulting firm.

Jonathan Sallett, the communications director, will now also be deputy campaign director. Sallett is also a Clinton administration veteran and served as leader of Lieberman’s vice presidential debate team in 2000.

Reunion. Speaking of Clinton administration veterans, several former Clinton White House policymakers will be getting together Monday at George Washington University to discuss cyberspace policy and technology initiatives that future Democratic administrations might want to consider.

The event, “Whitehousedotgov: Media, Tech and Telecom Policy from Clinton to the Next Democratic President,” coincides with the 10th anniversary of the release of the first White House cyberspace policy document.

It is being organized by David Lytel, a former technology policy adviser during Clinton’s first term who helped develop the White House Web site. He is now an analyst with Precursor and founder of the Committee to ReDefeat the President, which can be found on line at www.redefeatbush.com.

The event runs from 4 to 6 p.m. in Room 310 of GW’s Media and Public Affairs Building, 805 21st St. NW.

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