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Comeback Kid

Longtime campaign operative John Hishta is coming back to politics full time.

After a stint at the lobbying firm ACS, Hishta recently agreed to join Mercury Public Affairs as a managing director.

Hishta, who served as the executive director at the National Republican Congressional Committee during the 2002 cycle, has opened Mercury’s office in Washington, D.C., and will dabble in political consulting, public relations and lobbying.

Hishta joins Kieran Mahoney and Greg Strimple among several other partners in the firm. Mahoney and Strimple are based out of the firm’s anchor office in New York City.

“I am looking forward to getting into new business opportunities,” Hishta said.

Prior to his time at the NRCC, Hishta served as a senior aide to Rep. Tom Davis (R-Va.). He managed Davis’ first campaign for board of supervisors in Fairfax County in 1991. He also served as chief of staff to former Ohio Rep. Buz Lukens (R).

Crying Wolfson. The contract that the New York State Democratic Committee

signed recently with the Glover Park Group is part of a restructuring for the state party as it prepares for the elections of 2005 and 2006.

Howard Wolfson, a partner with the D.C. and New York-based Democratic firm, and Gigi Georges, who heads its New York office, will do communications consulting for the party this year and next.

Wolfson, the former executive director of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee who was the communications director for Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton’s (D-N.Y.) 2000 campaign, was expected to work on behalf of a Democratic challenger to New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg (R) this year. But he said he opted for the state party contract so that he could help New York Democrats across-the-board, beyond just this year’s mayoral race.

Wolfson, who has also worked for Rep. Nita Lowey (D-N.Y.), continues to be a top strategist to Clinton as she prepares for her 2006 re-election contest and her nascent presidential bid. He already attracted attention in his new role earlier this week when he cast aspersions on New York Gov. George Pataki’s (R) presidential ambitions.

The state party announced this week that it has hired Rodney Capel to be its executive director. Capel, who had been the party’s political director, is the son of Jim Capel, a longtime aide to Rep. Charlie Rangel (D-N.Y.). The younger Capel also worked for Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.).

As Roll Call reported earlier this year, Frank Nemeth is taking Rodney Capel’s place as political director.

Billable Hours. Bill McGinley has been appointed general counsel to the National Republican Senatorial Committee.

McGinley joins the NRSC from the giant law firm Patton Boggs, where he was an associate. He also served the Republican National Committee as a deputy counsel.

McGinley specialized in campaign finance and election law issues.

He replaces Steve Hoersting, who was the committee’s general counsel for the 2004 cycle.

Voting Yes on Aghassi. Christine Aghassi has joined Goddard Claussen Strategic Advocacy as a senior consultant.

The veteran ballot initiative campaigner leaves Winner & Mandabach Campaigns, where she was vice president.

She will work out of the public affairs shop’s Los Angeles office. The firm has offices in Sacramento and Roseville, Calif., as well as Washington, D.C.

Aghassi worked on the winning side of an initiative to promote stem-cell research as well as one that would have allowed non-Indian casinos to operate in California.

Taking a Taste of the Big Apple. Nicole Landset, who left her post last week as research director of the League of Conservation Voters, is bound for New York, where she will take a similar position with former Bronx Borough President Fernando Ferrer, a Democratic candidate for mayor.

Landset previously worked for the Election Reform Information Project and as an intern for Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.). Her résumé also includes a stint at the now-defunct Washington, D.C.-based research and communications firm Ginsberg Lahey LLC.

The League of Conservation Voters, the political arm of the environmental movement, is interviewing candidates to replace Landset.

Welcome to Bawlmer, Hon. Jonathan Epstein has joined the campaign staff of Baltimore Mayor Martin O’Malley (D), who is widely expected to run for Maryland governor next year.

Epstein served as Iowa field director to the presidential campaign of Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) and is widely credited with engineering Kerry’s come-from-behind victory in that crucial state’s caucuses last year.

Previously Epstein led Kerry’s leadership political action committee, the Citizen Soldier Fund, and prior to that he worked at the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee.

L.A. Woman. Mary Nemick, who did advance and press work for Kerry’s presidential campaign, has taken a temporary gig as communications director for the Earth Day Network in Washington, D.C.

In that capacity, she will help the environmental group mark the 35th anniversary of Earth Day on April 22.

Nemick, a Los Angeles-based communications consultant for corporate clients, government agencies and nonprofit groups, has previously done advance work for then-President Bill Clinton. She is expected to return to L.A. after Earth Day.

Friends in High Places. Rhode Island Secretary of State Matt Brown (D) has snagged a big-name Democrat to serve as honorary chairman for his 2006 Senatorial bid.

Eli Segal, who was chief of staff for Bill Clinton’s successful 1992 presidential campaign, has signed on with Brown as honorary national chairman.

Segal went on to work in the Clinton White House and was the chief executive officer of AmeriCorps. He also headed up retired Gen. Wesley Clark’s (D) unsuccessful presidential campaign last year.

Brown has also assembled an impressive finance committee that includes former Democratic National Committee Chairman David Wilhelm, former Sen. Harris Wofford (D-Pa.), and Victoria Hopper, wife of actor Dennis Hopper who recently generated buzz by writing to the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee on Brown’s behalf.

She and 16 other Hollywood donors made clear that they will not financially support the DSCC’s preferred candidate in the Rhode Island race, Rep. James Langevin (D), if he opts to challenge Sen. Lincoln Chafee (R) next year because Langevin opposes abortion rights.

Eve of an Announcement. The New York Daily News reported last week that Leecia Eve, counsel to Sen. Clinton, is on the verge of leaving Capitol Hill to move back to Buffalo so she can run for New York lieutenant governor in 2006.

Eve is the daughter of former state Assemblyman Arthur Eve (D), a longtime powerhouse in Western New York politics. Her brother, Eric Eve, was director of Al Gore’s presidential campaign in New York in 2000.

Eve would likely be one of several candidates seeking the Democratic nomination for lieutenant governor next year. In New York, candidates for lieutenant governor compete for their party’s nomination in a primary, then are tethered to their gubernatorial nominees in the general election.

Josh Kurtz and Chris Cillizza contributed to this report.

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