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Shop Talk: Virginia Is for Consultant Candidates

Terry McAuliffe isn’t the only political puppeteer running for office in Virginia in 2009. In addition to the former Democratic National Committee chairman — who is seeking the Democratic nomination for governor — several political consultants and former aides are hitting the campaign trail to boost their own bids.

[IMGCAP(1)]Just slightly south of McAuliffe on the ballot, Michael Signer and Rich Savage are running for the Democratic nod for lieutenant governor. Signer served as a deputy counselor to Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) when Warner was governor, plus he worked as a senior strategist for now-Rep. Tom Perriello’s (D-Va.) 2008 campaign. Savage is a Richmond, Va.-based political consultant who has worked on several state Senate and House of Delegates races.

Meanwhile, Republican Barbara Comstock is challenging freshman Del. Margi Vanderhye for a Fairfax County-based seat that includes areas around Great Falls and McLean. A partner at the firm Corallo Comstock, the former Justice Department spokeswoman was a senior adviser to former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney’s (R) 2008 presidential campaign and a former research director at the Republican National Committee in the 2000 cycle.

Adam Parkhomenko, a former aide on now-Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton’s presidential campaign, is in a competitive Democratic primary for an open House of Delegates seat in the Arlington area. After the Clinton campaign, Parkhomenko worked as a staff analyst for CyberTipline at the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.

But Parkhomenko and Comstock don’t have to quit their day jobs just yet. The House of Delegates is a part-time gig that only pays a salary of about $17,640.

Nick of Time. Brian Nick, a longtime aide to former Sen. Elizabeth Dole (R-N.C.), has joined Strategic Perceptions Inc., the Hollywood-based media firm run by Republican ad man Fred Davis. Nick will open and manage the firm’s new Washington, D.C., office.

As director of communications and strategic development, Nick said his portfolio will be mostly political work, including campaigns and several issue advocacy organizations.

“I’m very excited to have the opportunity to work with the most creative mind in the business in Fred Davis and a very talented Strategic Perception team,” Nick said in a statement.

Nick most recently served as Dole’s chief of staff, following stints as her communications director in the Senate and during her tenure at the National Republican Senatorial Committee.

Strategic Perceptions has done work for the GOP presidential campaigns of Sen. John McCain (Ariz.) and former President George W. Bush, as well as statewide races for Sens. Lamar Alexander (Tenn.), Bob Corker (Tenn.) and John Cornyn (Texas).

Parking It. The Ohio-based Republican consulting firm Matthew D. Parker and Associates has picked up P.J. Wenzel as senior vice president for the firm.

Wenzel most recently served as the Midwest political director for Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney’s presidential primary campaign, followed by a stint as campaign manager for Ohio state Sen. Kirk Schuring’s (R) failed bid in the 16th Congressional district.

Let the Sunshine State In. Kyra Jennings, the former southern regional press secretary for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, is returning to her native Florida for her next gig.

Jennings will serve as communications director for Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink (D), who recently decided not to run for Senate in 2010. Sink is still viewed as a potential gubernatorial candidate next year.

Jennings will start work in Sink’s office on Feb. 23.

Four for Fighting. Four alumni of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee are teaming up to form 4C Partners, which will offer consulting on field operations, fundraising and communications for Democratic candidates and organizations.

Political Director Brian Smoot, National Field Director Casey O’Shea, Managing Director of Finance and Marketing Nicole Runge and Director of Candidate Training Seth Pendleton — all of whom toiled at the DCCC during the 2008 cycle — have left the committee to form the new firm. Runge also worked at the committee in the 2006 cycle.

A DeRose by Any Other Name. The Arizona Democratic Party’s former communications director, Emily DeRose, has joined the Democratic Governors Association as their official spokeswoman.

Prior to working with the state party, DeRose worked at a public relations firm in Phoenix and as a reporter for the Arizona Republic.

Georgia on My Mind. Sen. Saxby Chambliss’ (R-Ga.) former campaign communications director, Michelle Hitt Grasso, has started her own public relations and new media firm, iMedia Communications. The new shop, according to Grasso, will maximize clients’ “use on all of the new media outlets,” such as Facebook or Twitter. Grasso has already singed three Members in the state Legislature as clients.

Moving On. Justin Ruben will move into the role of executive director of the liberal activist group Ruben succeeds Eli Pariser, who will become board president after eight years with the organization.

Ruben, who has worked at MoveOn since 2004, was promoted from national organizing director. According to a press release, he has more than a decade of experience in political activism.

Nita Chaudhary will step into Ruben’s role, while Ilyse Hogue will continue as communications director, Adam Ruben as political director and Carrie Olson as chief operating officer. MoveOn’s founder, Wes Boyd, will also continue to serve on the board.

Buckeyes on Board. The Ohio Democratic Party and its allied organizations have added a slew of new staffers in preparation for the 2010 midterm election cycle, when every statewide office is up for election.

The current deputy political director, Carri Twigg, has been promoted to political director for the state party. Party Chairman Chris Redfern has picked up Eliza Kay to be his executive assistant.

Freshman Rep. Steve Driehaus’ (D-Ohio) campaign manager, Melissa Wideman, will serve as executive director of the House Democratic Caucus. Sarah Slavic will serve as finance director for the House Democratic Caucus.

Meanwhile, the interim communications director for the party, Lauren Goode, has moved on to be a spokeswoman for her former boss, Lt. Gov. Lee Fisher (D), who is exploring a bid for U.S. Senate.

Sohn of a Gun. Former Rep. Christopher Shays’ (R-Conn.) longtime campaign manager, Michael Sohn, allegedly used campaign funds to buy about $190,000 in unauthorized expenses.

A Shays spokesman told the Greenwich Time that Sohn took about $70,000 in cash withdrawals, wrote 31 checks to himself totalling about $99,000 and spent about $21,800 on a campaign debit card over the course of his last campaign. Sohn is currently being investigated for his expenses during Shays’ final campaign in 2008.

The spokesman for Shays, Michael Fox, also told the local newspaper that Sohn bought $1,000 in Red Sox Tickets, spent $10,000 on unauthorized cell phone charges, stayed at a Times Square hotel and gave $1,900 to his Fairfield, Conn., synagogue — all on the campaign’s dime.

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