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Lautenberg’s Death Could Further Divide State Party | Shop Talk

Democratic Sen. Frank R. Lautenberg’s death creates a power vacuum that could exacerbate fractures among New Jersey state party leaders looking to bring back their ailing organization.

Local Democrats are already grappling with who should lead the state party. Now, local officials might have to confront a divisive special primary for Senate in the next several months.

The first battle started when state Sen. Barbara Buono, the party’s choice to run for governor this year, picked state Assemblyman Jason O’Donnell to lead the New Jersey Democratic Party. Traditionally, the party’s nominee for governor gets to make this pick. But O’Donnell has some detractors — including Sen. Robert Menendez, D-N.J., according to PolitickerNJ. The opposition to O’Donnell is rooted in state legislative battles.

If a special election comes later this year, it could expedite the impending Democratic primary brawl between Newark Mayor Cory Booker and Rep. Frank Pallone Jr. The Booker-Pallone split is on track to be the fiercest in recent memory, but it also comes as the party is sorting out this and other parochial conflicts.

However, state election law is unclear about when there should be a special election to succeed Lautenberg — either this November or in 2014.

Booker told the Huffington Post last week that he “believes that the party will unite behind” O’Donnell. Other Democrats were not so certain about the party’s long-term prospects.

“You have a second split in the party. … How much more fractured can the state Democratic party get?” a worried New Jersey Democratic political operative said to CQ Roll Call.

No Honda Accord

Democratic attorney Ro Khanna, who is challenging Democratic Rep. Michael M. Honda for California’s 31st District, hired political strategist Andy Wong as his deputy campaign manager.

Wong worked on President Barack Obama’s 2012 re-election campaign, including on Asian-American and Pacific Islander outreach, and was the Western regional operation vote director.

Southeastern Hospitality

The National Republican Senatorial Committee has hired Michael Joffrion as its new regional political director for the Southeast.

That area will play a pivotal role in the 2014 elections — especially for Senate Republicans. Joffrion will oversee the committee’s efforts to topple Democratic incumbents in Arkansas, Louisiana and North Carolina, as well as hold on to retiring Sen. Saxby Chambliss’ seat in Georgia.

Joffrion, who will report to NRSC political director Ward Baker, is a veteran of Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign.

Blueprint for the Future

Blueprint Interactive, a Democratic marketing firm, has hired Geoff Mackler as vice president.

Previously, he worked in digital and direct mail at the now-defunct MSHC Partners. Mackler also previously worked for Democratic Rep. Michael E. Capuano of Massachusetts.

Good Omens

Alison Omens joined communications and public affairs firm Outreach Strategies LLC last week. She was previously a vice president with the AFL-CIO as a director of media outreach and deputy director of public affairs.

Hot Schatz

Hawaii Sen. Brian Schatz has hired Clay Schroers to manage his campaign in next year’s competitive Democratic primary against Rep. Colleen Hanabusa.

Schroers was born and raised in Hawaii. He has managed several congressional races, including New York Rep. Dan Maffei’s successful comeback bid last year. He also served as an aide to Honolulu Mayor Mufi Hannemann.

From the Redwood Forest …

Goddard Claussen/West and Ginsberg McLear Group announced they are merging to form a new political firm, Redwood Pacific Public Affairs.

The new venture “will specialize in public affairs and issue advocacy campaigns, strategic communications, coalition building, and media buying,” according to a release.

Rick Claussen, Josh Ginsberg, Aaron McLear and Ned Wigglesworth are founders of the firm.

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