Meaty Job With Meathead

Posted January 21, 2004 at 6:29pm

Is Rob Reiner fixing to run for governor of California in 2006? Based on a recent hire he made, the answer is a definite maybe.

Reiner, the actor/director/liberal political activist, persuaded Jim Farrell to leave the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, where he was the organization’s media director and spokesman, and move to California. Farrell this month became the communications director for the Improving Classroom Education Act, a California funding initiative co-sponsored by Reiner and slated for November’s statewide ballot.

Farrell served as communications director to the late Sen. Paul Wellstone (D-Minn.) on Capitol Hill and through his final campaign, from 1998 through 2002. He was also a top aide to the late Veterans Affairs Secretary Jesse Brown.

The initiative that Farrell is working on would invest $4.5 billion annually in California classrooms and on universal pre-school. Co-sponsoring the measure with Reiner is the powerful California Teachers Association, a principal foe of new Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R).

Many political observers suspect that Reiner is using the initiative as a potential launching pad for a gubernatorial bid in 2006 — much as Schwarzenegger used an education funding measure in 2002 to increase his political visibility. And Farrell is seen as somebody who can help the former Meathead considerably.

Keeping Up With the Jones Campaign. Staying in the Golden State, politically speaking, former California Secretary of State Bill Jones (R) has put the finishing touches on his campaign team for his hastily arranged Senate run.

Ed Rollins, a 35-year veteran of state and national politics who was national campaign director for former President Ronald Reagan’s re-election campaign in 1984, is serving as the chief strategist. The Jones campaign is already trying to take advantage of Rollins’ celebrity, sending out news advisories every time the anything-but-camera-shy strategist appears as a commentator on television, which is often.

Bruce Nestande, a former state Assemblyman and a top aide to Reagan when he was governor of California, is campaign manager. Sean Walsh, a communications specialist who has worked

for the White House and former California Gov. Pete Wilson (R), among others, will be a senior consultant. The policy director is Mike Kahoe, a former chief of staff to the California Environmental Protection Agency.

Handling press duties is Valerie Walston, a former operative for Wilson and the Republican National Committee who is also a one-time producer for MSNBC and the Fox News Channel.

The campaign will have three senior advisers, all veterans of California and national politics: Mark Bogetich, Michael Harbert and Steve Frank. Harbert is a former producer for ABC and CBS News who has written screenplays for “Law and Order” and other TV shows.

Ed Goeas of the Torrance Group will do Jones’ polling, and Larry McCarthy has signed on as the media consultant.

Jones is one of four major candidates in the March 2 Senate primary. The winner faces two-term Sen. Barbara Boxer (D) in November.

A Man of Many Titles. Arthur Schecter, who served as U.S. ambassador to the Bahamas under then-President Bill Clinton, became national chairman of the National Jewish Democratic Council on Jan. 1. He succeeded William Dockser, who had held the post since 2000.

Schecter is chairman of the board of the Harris County Metropolitan Transit Authority in Houston. He has played a leadership role with a number of Jewish organizations, including the American Jewish Committee, AIPAC, United Jewish Appeal and the Holocaust Museum. He is also a well-known Democratic donor and activist.

Cheney Gang. Maggie Sayre, a former Capitol Hill aide to Reps. Heather Wilson (R-N.M.) and Steve Pearce (R-N.M.), has signed on to be campaign manager for Lisa Marie Cheney, a Republican candidate for Virginia’s 8th district, now represented by Rep. Jim Moran (D). Sayre holds an MBA from George Mason University and a bachelor’s from New Mexico State University. The candidate is not related to Vice President Cheney.

Aho There! BrabenderCox, a Pittsburgh and Washington, D.C.-based public affairs firm, has named Robert Aho, a former press aide to Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Pa.), to be vice president for marketing. Aho has an MBA in marketing and strategy and has worked for several political and corporate campaigns.

Not a Bad Place to Land. Peter Ragone, best known in these parts as one of the legion of spokesmen for Al Gore during the 2000 presidential recount, has been named spokesman for new San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom, the Los Angeles Times recently reported. Ragone is also a veteran of former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Andrew Cuomo’s (D) ill-fated run for governor of New York in 2002, and of the unsuccessful campaign to beat back the recall of then-California Gov. Gray Davis (D).

Happy Endings. Winning Connections, a D.C.-based Democratic voter contact firm, has had a hot time recently. Not only did the firm help gin up the vote for new Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Blanco (D) in November 2003 — one of the few Democratic bright spots in the South of late — but it also survived a fire at its Capitol Hill headquarters. The firm has temporarily moved across the street, to 316 Pennsylvania Ave. SE.

Paul Kane contributed to this report.