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Republican Is Quico on the Draw Building His Consultant Team

Attorney Francisco “Quico” Canseco is seeking the Republican nomination in Texas’ 23rd district — and he has already hired a team of consultants and taken his case to the voters via the radio airwaves and direct mail.

To help him survive the March 2008 GOP primary and attempt to oust Rep. Ciro Rodriguez (D) in the general election, Canseco has turned to a quintet of Texas Republican consultants. [IMGCAP(1)]

They include campaign manager Kyle Whatley, general consultant Todd Smith of Impact Texas Communications, media consultants Rex Elsass and Brian Berry of The Strategy Group for Media, and pollster Chris Wilson of Wilson Research Strategies.

Whatley spent the previous cycle at the Austin, Texas-based nonprofit Home and Land Owners Association, after working in 2004 on then-state Rep. Arlene Wohlgemuth’s (R) failed attempt to oust Rep. Chet Edwards (D-Texas) in the 17th district.

Whatley said Canseco has launched a full-scale campaign early to allow voters in the vast district to get to know him. The district runs southwest, from San Antonio to the eastern edge of El Paso. A few other Republicans are talking about getting into the race, but Canseco is the sole declared candidate.

“If Quico had his way he would go around and meet all 600,000 people himself,” Whatley said.

Heinrich Maneuver. Envision Communications has signed on to advise Albuquerque City Councilor Martin Heinrich (D) in his quest to oust Rep. Heather Wilson (R) in New Mexico’s 1st district.

Envision will be handling all electronic media ads and will tutor Heinrich on general communications strategy. The Washington, D.C.-based Democratic firm was launched earlier this year by partners Peter Cari, Maura Dougherty and Jennifer Burton.

Heinrich is hoping his early start to the 2008 cycle scares off other potential Democratic candidates and paves the way for a clear path to Wilson in the general election.

“He’s made it clear in New Mexico how formidable he’s going to be,” Dougherty said.

Massa Movement. Eric Massa (D), the retired Navy commander who narrowly lost to Rep. Randy Kuhl (R-N.Y.) in 2006 and is trying again this cycle, announced Wednesday that he has hired Paul Novak

and the team at Novak Media to serve as his media advisers for the 2008 election.

Massa was quick to point out that Novak is a lifelong New Yorker who has run his Rochester-based firm for more than 20 years. Massa had several D.C.-based consultants in the last go-round.

“I needed a media adviser that both knew the district and has a proven track record of success,” Massa said in a statement. “Paul Novak has both of these boxes checked off on his résumé.”

Novak has helped elect Rochester Mayor Bob Duffy (D) and several other state and local officials. The 29th district includes the Rochester suburbs and the Rochester media market.

In the previous cycle, Massa used D.C.-based Mullen and Associates as his media consultants. But this time around, at least a couple of Washington consultants have signed on with Massa’s Democratic primary opponent, Bausch & Lomb executive David Nachbar — including pollster Alan Secrest, who was Massa’s pollster in 2006. Also working for Nachbar is John Lapp, the former executive director of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee who now works for the media firm McMahon Squier Lapp and Associates.

Reunited. Ex-Rep. Richard Gephardt (D-Mo.), president and CEO of the Gephardt Group LLC, has hired his former chief of staff Thomas O’Donnell as the company’s executive vice president.

“I’m delighted once again to be working with Tom,” Gephardt said in a statement.

O’Donnell, who served under the one-time House Minority Leader for 10 years and was among his closest political advisers, comes to the Gephardt Group from the Democratic consulting firm Doak, Carrier, O’Donnell Wilkinson Goldman & Associates. O’Donnell worked as a strategist on several successful campaigns at the local, state and federal level, including including those of Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and former California Gov. Gray Davis (D).

The Gephardt Group offers labor relations and governmental affairs consulting to a wide range of clients, including corporations.

Their Man Mitch. Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels (R) has assembled a team of veteran Hoosier State GOP operatives to help lead him to re-election in 2008.

Eric Holcomb will serve as campaign manager. He was the political director of Daniels’ 2004 campaign and then went to work as director of intergovernmental affairs in his administration.

Cara Hodges will be the operations director. She has been in Daniels’ campaign office since January 2005 and served in a variety of roles for the Indiana GOP before that.

Cam Savage has assumed the role of communications director while also supervising the campaign’s political shop. In the previous cycle, Savage served as then-Rep. Mike Sodrel’s (R-Ind.) chief of staff while also running his unsuccessful re-election bid.

Justin Garrett will serve as political director. In the past cycle he was a member of the Indiana GOP’s field team.

A Heller of a Hire. Risa Heller is leaving Sen. Charles Schumer’s (D-N.Y.) office to join the Democratic consulting firm Global Strategy Group.

Heller was Schumer’s communications director in his Senate office — the Senator also serves as chairman of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee.

At Global Strategy, she’ll don the title of executive vice president and be working closely with Ryan Toohey, a former aide to New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer (D).

Fighting Political Fires. State Rep. Luis Garcia has been appointed vice chairman of the Florida Democratic Party.

Garcia, an American of Cuban descent from Miami Beach, won a Republican-held seat in the Florida House of Representatives in 2006 and is the former chief of the Miami Beach Fire Department.

Carey On. Ron Carey has been re-elected as chairman of the Minnesota Republican Party by the state GOP central committee.

Dorothy Fleming was elected vice chairwoman.

Calling All Political Geeks. Now you can participate in one of the most rewarding and challenging political endeavors of them all: Congressional redistricting.

With missions such as creating a “partisan gerrymander” or redrawing districts to comply with the Voting Rights Act, the online, interactive “Redistricting Game,” released this week in the Capitol, allows would-be mapmakers to try their hand at a little political reapportionment of their own.

Sponsored by the University of Southern California’s Annenberg Center for Communications, the free game’s goal is to teach people about the politics and potential unfairness of the country’s district-drawing process. The eventual end is to convince people to urge their representatives to support the Fairness and Independence in Redistricting Act of 2007, sponsored by Tennessee Reps. John Tanner (D) and Zach Wamp (R). The act aims to limit states from redistricting more than once after every census and apportionment and then only allow new maps to be drawn by independent commissions.

“If this game will help pass this bill,” Tanner said to the game’s creators Wednesday at a media preview, “you may have done more for your country than any Member of Congress.”

And, while it remains to be seen if the general public will actually embrace political mapmaking as a recreational activity, the game, which can be accessed at, decidedly adds one more time-waster to the political-geek repertoire.

Josh Kurtz and Bryce Bauer contributed to this report.

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