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Shop Talk: Conant Has Left the Building

Republican National Committee Communications Director Alex Conant — the organization’s chief mouthpiece during the tumultuous first month under the leadership of its new chairman, Michael Steele — will depart the committee, as planned, this Friday.

Conant, known among reporters for his prolific e-mailing capabilities, was one of a handful of employees carried over from the previous administration of RNC Chairman Mike Duncan during the transition of power.

After Steele was elected at the end of January, the former Maryland lieutenant governor asked for every staff member’s resignation in what he called an effort to reorganize the entire operation.

[IMGCAP(1)]Conant, however, agreed to stay on for a month after the purge of staffers. The former White House staffer also reports that even though he has left the building, he will stay on as a senior adviser to the RNC. In the meantime, Conant said in an e-mail that he plans to take some time to “reflect and rest,— plus complete some writing and consulting.

Pass GOPAC and Collect $200. Longtime Republican activist Frank Donatelli is set to take the reins of GOPAC, the Grand Old Party’s organization to train and recruit local and state candidates.

One of Donatelli’s top goals as chairman is to create a “priority list— of a couple dozen local candidates that the organization will train and aid in their campaigns.

“We probably are going to want to bring the focus on some people we are really interested in electing,— Donatelli said in an interview.

Donatelli said he would like to make more technology available to all of GOPAC’s candidates running for office, but added that his first priority will be aiding GOP candidates in legislative races in Virginia and New Jersey in 2009.

An attorney by trade, Donatelli is a 30-year veteran of national GOP politics. He most recently served as deputy chairman of the Republican National Committee in the 2008 cycle. GOPAC’s previous chairman, Michael Steele, was elected RNC chairman earlier this year.

Another Pretty Facebook. Facebook founder and Barack Obama’s campaign online strategist Chris Hughes has joined GMMB as a strategic adviser. According to a release from the communications firm, Hughes will be an “of-counsel resource— for GMMB clients.

“Chris is a true visionary who shares our firm’s commitment to social change

through groundbreaking communications and organizing,— GMMB partner Greg Pinelo said in statement.

Hughes joined up with the Obama campaign’s online department early on in the presidential campaign, leaving his plum post as Facebook founder for the Chicago campaign headquarters in early 2007. GMMB was part of Obama’s communications consulting team for his 2008 presidential campaign.

The Other Land of Lincoln. Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark.) will retain her consulting team from previous cycles as she prepares for her 2010 re-election bid.

Steve Patterson will be the Senator’s general consultant this cycle, after serving as her campaign manager in 1998 and 2004. He was previously her chief of staff. Patterson said that Celinda Lake will again serve as Lincoln’s pollster after her work on the past two successful campaigns.

“If it’s not broke …— Patterson quipped.

Additionally, he said Ann Lewis — a former aide to Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton — will work on Lincoln’s online strategy.

Vitter, Vidi, Vici. Sen. David Vitter (R-La.) is also sticking with two of his previous consultants as he faces re-election.

Vitter will use Public Opinion Strategies for polling and BrabenderCox for media, following his work with both firms on his 2004 campaign. Vitter spokesman Joel DiGrado also reports that the LS Group will consult on the Senator’s fundraising.

Tommy Boy. The former top gun at the Democratic National Committee is headed to Americans United for Change — at least temporarily.

Outgoing DNC Executive Director Tom McMahon will be the acting executive director at one of the most prominent liberal groups of the past few campaign cycles. According to a release from the organization, McMahon is also charged with helping to find a new chief for AUFC.

McMahon recently became a partner at the newly formed firm New Partners Consulting Inc. Former AUFC President Brad Woodhouse left the group to become communications and research director at the DNC.

“I, and my colleagues at New Partners, could not be more pleased to have this opportunity to lead Americans United during this critical time for our nation and for President Obama’s Agenda,— McMahon said in a press release.

McMahon served as the executive director of the DNC from 2005 to 2009, following his tenure as deputy campaign manager for ex-Vermont Gov. Howard Dean (D).

Musical Party Chairs. Attorney Don Bivens was elected chairman of the Arizona Democratic Party after the sudden resignation of state party’s previous chairman, Paul Eckerstrom, who served less than two weeks in the top spot before stepping down.

Bivens served as the party’s chairman in the 2008 cycle but lost re-election to his post to Eckerstrom in late January. He then resoundingly won another term as chairman on March 7 with more than 80 percent of committee members’ support.

In other state party news, the Massachusetts Republican Party announced Nick Connors will serve as executive director of its organization. Connors was a field director for former Lt. Gov. Kerry Healey’s (R) 2006 gubernatorial campaign and served as a deputy regional coalitions director for former President George W. Bush’s re-election in 2004.

John McArdle contributed to this report.

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