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Schmidt Picks Chief of Staff

Fresh off her victory over Iraq war veteran Paul Hackett (D) in Ohio’s special election, Rep. Jean Schmidt (R-Ohio) is busy lining up her first Washington, D.C., staff.

Much of Schmidt’s new team was lifted from the staff of her predecessor, Rob Portman (R), who was recently elevated by President Bush to the position of U.S. trade representative. But the Congresswoman searched beyond the ranks of former Portman staffers to find her new chief of staff, Barry Bennett, a seasoned Washington strategist with substantial experience in both the public and private sectors.

“I am thrilled to have Barry join our team as chief of staff. His expertise, leadership and knowledge about Ohio’s 2nd Congressional district will be critical as we seek to provide the best constituent service possible,” Schmidt said in a statement. “We feel very fortunate to have him serving in such a key role on the team.”

Bennett was also chief of staff to the late Rep. Frank Cremeans (R-Ohio). He has directed successful election campaigns for several Ohio candidates. In 1993, he helped shepherd Portman through the special election process by which he was first chosen to represent Ohio’s 2nd district, remaining with the Congressman long enough to oversee his post-election transition.

More recently, Bennett has been involved with the 2004 G8 Summit, hosted by the United States, where he served as communications director, facilitating media relations on behalf of more than 3,000 journalists covering the event.

Bennett hails from Portsmouth, Ohio, and holds a degree in finance from Ohio State University. He lives with his wife, Melissa, in Old Town Alexandria, Va.

Diaz-Balart Hires Two, Promotes Two. On the heels of the August recess, the office of Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart (R-Fla.) will have a fresh look following the announcement of two promotions and a pair of new staffers coming aboard.

Kathleen Hennessey, 22, has been hired as Diaz-Balart’s scheduler. Hennessey handled scheduling duties as a staff assistant in the executive department of the National Republican Congressional Committee, where she worked before joining Diaz-Balart’s office. She is a native of Rochester, N.Y., and graduated in 2004 from the State University of New York at Buffalo with degrees in political science and psychology.

Tina O’Hara, once an intern for Diaz-Balart, has been hired as a staff assistant, where her duties will include serving as intern coordinator, directing constituent tours and assisting other staff members with research. The 27-year-old O’Hara is a native of New Smyrna Beach, Fla. After graduating from the University of South Carolina in 1999, she worked for two and a half years in New York City as a graphic designer.

Lauren Robitaille, 23, has been promoted from legislative correspondent to legislative assistant, where she will specialize in health care and education issues. She hails from Stuart, Fla., and graduated from the University of Florida in 2003.

Filling Robitaille’s vacated legislative correspondent spot is 23-year-old Miguel Mendoza, promoted from staff assistant. A native of Miami, Fla., and a recent graduate of the University of Florida, Mendoza will handle constituent mail for the Congressman.