Shop Talk: National Campaigns Step Up 2012 Hiring

Posted April 11, 2011 at 6:54pm

Amanda Howe has been hired as the chief operating officer of the Democratic National Committee and starts Monday, according to an internal email from Executive Director Patrick Gaspard that was confirmed by a party source.

“She understands the nuts and bolts of campaigns and has been a high level administrator for the state of Virginia, having once served as the Assistant Secretary of Commerce and Trade” for then-Gov. Mark Warner, Gaspard wrote.

Howe also worked for former DNC Chairman and former Gov. Tim Kaine, who is now running for Senate in Virginia, including organizing Queen Elizabeth II’s 2006 trip to the state.

Howe most recently served as business development manager for the energy practice at McGuireWoods.

Howe replaces Ann Marie Habershaw, who was COO for the past two years and now takes over as COO of President Barack Obama’s re-election campaign. Habershaw previously served as COO of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and M+R Strategic Services.

“Her leadership has been critical and her influence extends to every facet of our work,” Gaspard wrote of Habershaw.

Gaspard also announced Monday’s arrival of Bryan Whitaker as technology director. Whitaker previously served as director of field information services at the Service Employees International Union.

Pawlenty Ayers on Side of Youth

Likely presidential candidate Tim Pawlenty (R) hired Nick Ayers, a former executive director of the Republican Governors Association, as campaign manager of his presidential exploratory committee.

Ayers is a young, up-and-coming GOP operative, and his hiring is an impressive move for Pawlenty, who has already announced his finance team.

The former Minnesota governor worked with Ayers last cycle as vice chairman of the RGA. It was Ayers’ second straight cycle leading the GOP committee. In a statement Monday, Pawlenty called him “one of the best political talents in America.”

“We are very excited Nick will lead our team,” Pawlenty said. “His leadership and record of winning tough races in every part of our country will provide even more momentum to our campaign to get America back on track.”

Prior to becoming the RGA executive director in late 2006 as a 24-year-old, Ayers was re-election campaign manager for then-Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue (R). After leaving the RGA after the 2010 cycle, Ayers helped oversee the transition at the Republican National Committee of newly elected Chairman Reince Priebus.

Ayers will move to Minneapolis and begin in his new role April 25. Phil Musser, a senior adviser to Pawlenty for the past two years, will remain in that position.

Badger State Marks the Spot

Wisconsin Democratic consultants Tom Marks and Doug Hill last month announced the formation of their new media and messaging firm, Marks & Hill Inc.

Forming in the hottest state in the political landscape today, the Madison-based political and advocacy consulting agency had been in development for months and actually began working with clients last year.

Both principals have more than 15 years of political consulting experience.

Marks has worked on statewide Wisconsin campaigns and referendums. Hill was most recently district director for former Rep. David Obey (D-Wis.) and has worked extensively in both Wisconsin and Minnesota.

The firm says it differentiates itself by standing “at the forefront of innovation in … messaging creation and delivery applications,” including using measurement and tracking analytics.

Ex-Obama Advisers Team Up

Art Collins and Broderick Johnson opened a Washington, D.C.-based strategic consulting firm April 4.

The Collins Johnson Group will offer political, policy and communications strategies to corporations and executives engaged with the public sector at all levels, according to a press release.

Collins served as a senior political strategist on President Barack Obama’s 2008 campaign and as a public liaison to Obama’s transition, and in 2004 he was a senior adviser to the presidential campaign of Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.).

He most recently served as president and CEO of the Public Private Partnership Inc.

Johnson, most recently a partner at Bryan Cave, was an informal adviser to the Obama campaign and senior Congressional affairs adviser to Kerry’s campaign. He previously served as the Clinton administration’s House liaison.

Raising Dough in ’Bama

Will Blanton has been named finance director of the Alabama Democratic Party, Chairman Mark Kennedy announced Monday. Blanton, of consulting firm Hayden, Blanton & Associates, will begin immediately.

Blanton, a longtime Montgomery resident and Mobile native, has more than 14 years of political fundraising experience and has managed the finances of more than a dozen political campaigns, including mayoral and presidential campaigns.

“Will is a talented and experienced fundraiser,” Kennedy said. “This is a period of tremendous opportunity for the Alabama Democratic Party, and his expertise will be a valuable addition to our team.”

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