Shop Talk: State of the States

Posted April 16, 2012 at 5:32pm

There is plenty of turnover happening at state parties across the country with fewer than seven months to go before general elections, and weekends are as good a time as any for big changes.

Kevin DeWine, Ohio Republican Party chairman for the past three years, stepped down on Friday and was replaced by his predecessor Bob Bennett, who chaired the party for the previous 21 years.

“We have to put aside our differences and rifts that are in this party and that is what is going on today,” DeWine told the party’s state central committee, according to the Columbus Dispatch. The newspaper reported that Bennett agreed to take the party’s helm in this crucial swing state for the rest of the year and will run for a full two-year term in January.

In North Carolina, Jay Parmley stepped down Sunday as executive director of the state Democratic Party after party activists called for his ouster at county conventions Saturday, the Raleigh News & Observer reported. Questions were raised over a payment made to a former party staffer who was fired after complaining he was sexually harassed, which the newspaper discovered in internal emails Friday.

Meanwhile, two state party organizations looking for rejuvenation are electing leaders. The Nevada Republican Party will elect a chairman Sunday at the Gold Coast Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas. Former Las Vegas City Councilman Michael McDonald is favored over Washoe County GOP Chairman Dave Buell to replace Amy Tarkanian, who resigned in February.

The Louisiana Democratic Party will elect a chairman to a four-year term April 28. Former Rep. Buddy Leach, the current chairman, is favored to win re-election against state Sen. Karen Carter Peterson, a Democratic National committeewoman.

Dan the Man

Sagac Public Affairs announced the addition of Dan Ekstein as partner to further its strategic growth and enhance client services.

Ekstein, a Virginia Commonwealth University grad, most recently served as vice president at JPMorgan Chase & Co. and as director of its political action committee.

Sagac is a national firm that provides communications, research and fundraising operations to political, nonprofit and corporate organizations. The firm’s services include strategy implementation for issue advocacy and PAC campaigns.

Sherwood’s Forest

Media strategist Robbie Sherwood was named director of operations for the new Strategies 360 office in Arizona, the eighth western state in which the Seattle-based public affairs firm has an office.

Sherwood was an adviser to former Rep. Harry Mitchell and started his own consulting firm in 2011. He was press secretary for Greg Stanton’s recent successful campaign for Phoenix mayor.

Noem Staffs Up

South Dakota Rep. Kristi Noem recently announced hiring two senior campaign aides for her first re-election.

The Republican brought on campaign manager Tom Erickson and general consultant Justin Brasell, who managed the most recent re-election campaigns of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Senate Republican Conference Chairman John Thune (S.D.).

Erickson was the Midwest press secretary last cycle at the National Republican Congressional Committee and in 2008 was deputy communications director for then-Sen. Norm Coleman’s (R-Minn.) re-election. Brasell is a former Midwest political director at the NRCC and was set to run Sen. Olympia Snowe’s (R-Maine) campaign before she announced her retirement in February.

Hired for Koss

Clark Durant, a GOP Senate candidate in Michigan, has added a communications director to round out his campaign team. Durant hired Joseph Koss, a Michigan native and adviser to Joe Miller’s 2010 Alaska Senate campaign, to handle media relations.

Durant said in a statement that Koss “worked for a candidate who was constantly in the media — so he knows what it takes to help spread the message of a D.C. outsider such as myself.”

Durant is facing former Rep. Pete Hoekstra in the primary for the chance to take on Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D). The rest of his team includes pollster Tony Fabrizio, SRCPmedia and digital strategy firm Targeted Victory.

The Pollies Return!

Last year was not a federal election year, but the American Association of Political Consultants handed out Pollie Awards for the best work of the past year at its annual conference late last month in Austin, Texas.

Among the winners were Whit Ayres of North Star Opinion Research and Jef Pollock of Global Strategy Group, who were named Republican and Democratic pollsters of the year, respectively.

The Progressive Change Campaign Committee won four awards for its work on the Wisconsin recall elections, including for best independent expenditure ad in a state legislative race and best overall TV/radio campaign under the ballot/initiative category. PCCC co-founder Adam Green said in a statement that the group used new talent and tapped into “the emotionally compelling stories of real people in our grassroots membership” to make better ads for less.

On the Republican side, FP1 Strategies took home eight awards, mostly for its presidential campaign ads for Rep. Ron Paul (Texas), including best overall Republican TV/radio campaign of the year. FP1 Strategies partner Jon Downs said in a statement that the firm takes “great pride in producing innovative, strategic ads that stand out and move the needle in the discussion so that the message resonates among decision makers.”

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