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Shop Talk: Lon Johnson Takes Over Michigan Democratic Party

The nasty intraparty brawl set to occur on Feb. 23 between longtime Michigan Democratic Party Chairman Mark Brewer and challenger Lon Johnson never materialized.

Brewer abruptly withdrew from his re- election race that day, and Johnson was promptly elected to succeed him, according to the Detroit Free Press. Until Brewer’s withdrawal, the race was both contested and contentious, local NBC affiliate WILX reported.

Brewer’s base was predominantly composed of local party officials. He had led the party since 1995.

The United Auto Workers, the Teamsters and the entire Democratic congressional delegation backed Johnson. He is the husband of noted Democratic fundraiser and Obama 2012 deputy campaign manager Julianna Smoot.

Johnson, a former operative to Rep. John D. Dingell, has much work ahead. Michigan easily delivered delegates for President Barack Obama in 2012.

But at the state level, the Democratic Party has struggled. The 2010 GOP wave wiped out Democrats in statewide office, and there is much hope that the party can recapture those offices in 2014.

But Michigan Democrats will concede that Republican Gov. Rick Snyder is in strong shape for re-election and that Republican-favored redistricting could dog Democrats for the rest of the decade.

Lifting Me Higher and Hire

Party committees went on a hiring spree over the past few weeks.

The Republican National Committee announced Ellie Wallace is its new media affairs director. She will be the committee’s primary contact for TV and radio bookings and will be wrangling Republican surrogates. Previously, Wallace was the communications director for RNC Victory in Colorado for the 2012 cycle.

The Democratic National Committee promoted Rebecca Chalif to deputy national press secretary. She is a veteran of the DNC’s 2012 primary and Tampa war rooms.

The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee also made an internal promotion, installing Anne Caprara as its new political director. Caprara served as the committee’s deputy political director during the 2012 cycle.

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee hired Brandon Lorenz as its Midwest regional press secretary earlier this month. Lorenz worked for North Dakota Sen. Heidi Heitkamp’s 2012 campaign.

New Priorities

Marcy Stech is leaving Priorities USA Action to be national press secretary at EMILY’s List.

Stech succeeds Jess McIntosh, who moved up to replace Jen Bluestein as communications director. Bluestein is now a senior adviser to new gun safety super PAC Americans for Responsible Solutions.

Stech’s former posts include working on the 2010 campaign of Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., and in the public affairs division of strategic communications firm The Glover Park Group.

Blue Monster

White House National Security Council spokesman Tommy Vietor and chief White House speechwriter Jon Favreau will leave their posts Friday to form a new “strategic communications firm” called Fenway Strategies, according to Politico.

They Kaine Do It!

Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va., announced new hires to his staff, and the lineup includes several Old Dominion political operatives. They include deputy state director Keren Charles Dongo, central Virginia regional director Tyee Davenport and Northern Virginia regional director Jose “Joe” Montano.

GROWing Up

Former White House aide Ruben Barrales was appointed president and CEO of GROW Elect, a group focused on electing Latino Republicans to office in California.

Barrales is the first person to hold those positions at the 2-year-old organization. According to a release, “his appointment is part of an aggressive expansion of its political plan, a dramatic increase in GROW’s funding, and the launch of a major effort to elect Latino Republicans at the local, state and federal level.”

The Republican Party has declined in influence in California, in part because of its inability to attract Hispanic voters. National and state GOP leaders hope this group can help change that.

Barrales was a deputy assistant to President George W. Bush and White House director of intergovernmental affairs, where he was responsible for communication with governors, state legislators and local elected officials. Barrales most recently served as president and CEO of the San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce.

SKDKnickerbocker Hires FTC Staffer

Cecelia Prewett began work Monday at SKDKnickerbocker as a senior vice president.

Previously, she worked at the Federal Trade Commission as director of public affairs and senior policy adviser to Chairman Jon Liebowitz. She was also a Hill staffer to Rep. Carolyn McCarthy, D-N.Y. , and former Reps. Rahm Emanuel, D-Ill., and Bob Filner, D-Calif.

Eliza Newlin Carney and Kyle Trygstad contributed to this report. Please send news of developments in the political industry to and follow us on Twitter @RCShopTalk.

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