NYC’s Mayoral Race Draws Top-Flight Political Operatives


Update: June 18, 2013, 1:47 PM

In an off-year for presidential and congressional campaigns, the 2013 New York City mayoral election is one of the hottest destinations for political operatives. Many of the top-tier candidates in this election have drawn staffers with experience on national races.Democratic City Council Speaker Christine Quinn’s lead in the polls has dropped over the past few months, but she remains the frontrunner in the Democratic primary race. Quinn is working with the powerhouse consulting firm SKDKnickerbocker, which has worked on several major campaigns including both of President Barack Obama’s election efforts, the surprising 2001 win that put Mike Bloomberg in City Hall and his re-election bids, as well as successful Senate and House campaigns in North Carolina, Louisiana, Massachusetts, and others.

Through SKDKnickerbocker, the Quinn team has Albany veteran Jennifer Cunningham and Josh Isay, Sen. Chuck Schumer’s (D-NY) original Senate campaign manager, serving as senior advisors. SKDKnickerbocker vice president of public relations Mike Morey, who was Schumer’s New York City press secretary from 2010 until 2012, is a communications consultant for Quinn.

Quinn campaign manager Matt Tepper worked for the DCCC last year. In 2008, Tepper worked on Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign in New Hampshire. According to the Quinn campaign, Quinn’s finance director Annie Weir and field director Alex Agius also worked on Clinton’s White House bid; her policy director, Anthony Hogrebe, worked on John Kerry’s 2004 campaign and President Obama’s first election; Quinn research director Chris Herold worked on Obama’s re-election; political director Ademola Oyefeso worked on Kerry’s campaign; senior advisor Michael DeLoach worked on Howard Dean’s 2004 presidential run, and senior advisor Mark Guma worked on multiple campaigns for Schumer and Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA).

Former Congressman Anthony Weiner is currently polling in second place in the Democratic primary about five points behind Quinn. Weiner has been dogged by reports his campaign has had difficulty attracting top flight talent because of his relatively late entry into the race after the scandal that saw him resign from the House in 2011. Weiner’s campaign declined to identify specific staffers in his operation in response to a request from TPM.

“Every one of our staffers has campaign experience of one form or another,” Weiner spokeswoman Barbara Morgan said.

According to Capital New York, Weiner’s political director is Camille Joseph. Joseph’s online profiles describe her as a former aide to Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) who spent seven months as the “National African American Vote Deputy Director: Obama for America” last year. A Linkedin page for Morgan, who is Weiner’s press secretary, said she previously spent over a year as director of communications and media relations for the New Jersey Department of Education. Last month, the New York Times reported Weiner hired Danny Kedem to be his campaign manager. The newspaper described Kedem as a “relative unknown” who “has worked on various under-the-radar races, including an unsuccessful 2012 Democratic Congressional campaign on Staten Island.”

Public Advocate Bill de Blasio is currently in third place in the Democratic primary polls. De Blasio’s lead consultant is John del Cecato, a partner at former top Obama advisor David Axelrod’s consulting firm AKPD Message and Media. Del Cecato worked on Obama’s 2004 Illinois Senate run, as the main architect of the television ads in both his presidential bids, and on many other Senate races. According to the de Blasio campaign, it has attracted several other veterans of the president’s re-election effort including; de Blasio’s campaign manager Bill Hyers, communications director Mahen Gunaratna, advance team member Laura Kavanagh, digital director Jessie Singleton, finance staffer Brittany Wise, Brooklyn field organizer Jonathan Viguers, Manhattan field organizer Gabriel Schnake-Mahl, incoming deputy communications director Lauren Hitt, and paid media consultant Jon Fromowitz, who was Obama’s deputy director of opinion research last year.

Singleton, who is originally from Tennessee, was based in Philadelphia while she worked on the Obama campaign. She moved to New York in January to join de Blasio’s staff.

“I knew who Bill was and the kind of things he was fighting for, and was really drawn to his message, but more than that, it’s that the mayor of New York City is in such a unique position to use the bully pulpit of the office to drive the conversation nationally on issues that matter a lot to me,” Singleton said.

Former comptroller Bill Thompson came a close second to Bloomberg in the 2009 mayoral election and is currently polling slightly behind de Blasio in this year’s Democratic primary. Thompson’s chief campaign strategist and manager is Jonathan Prince, a former advisor and speechwriter to President Bill Clinton and the national deputy campaign manager of John Edwards’ 2008 White House run. Dani Lever, Thompson’s press secretary, was on President Obama’s press team last year. Last month, Thompson announced he hired Hank Sheinkopf as a senior strategist. Sheinkopf is a consultant with three decades of experience including making ads for President Clinton’s 1996 re-election. Along with Sheinkopf, Thompson announced the hiring of senior advisor Karine Jean- Pierre, who was deputy battleground states director for President Obama in 2012 and northeast political director in the White House, and field director Will Leaverton, who was Obama’s deputy national GOTV director and national regional field director last year. The New York-based MirRam Group is the Thompson campaign’s general consulting group.

Comptroller John Liu is polling three points behind Thompson. Liu’s campaign did not respond to multiple requests for comment about their staff. However, Liu’s top advisor, Chung Seto, is a former executive director of the New York State Democratic Committee and a key fundraiser in Manhattan’s Chinatown for Hillary Clinton’s 2008 presidential bid.

Former Councilman Sal Albanese is the last of the major Democrats in the polls at about just one percent. According to Albanese’s team, his campaign manager Chris McCreight was Obama’s field coordinator for Brooklyn and Staten Island in 2008 and Albanese’s field director Robert Akleh worked for Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY) last year.

Neither of the campaigns for the two top Republican candidates, former MTA chairman Joe Lhota and billionaire businessman John Catsimatidis, responded to multiple requests for comment about their staffs.

All of the top Democrats are polling well ahead of their potential GOP rivals in hypothetical general election matchups.

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