Gizzi on Politics March 30, 2009

Special Election Update

With the March 31 special election to fill Sen. Kirsten Gillebrand’s former House district in New York’s 20th District at hand, Republicans have begun to feel more confident about their chances of a resurgence this year. Much of that feeling has to do with their strong showing in elections held after last November’s debacle. In the two U.S. House races in Louisiana that required a December run-off to determine the winners, Republicans emerged triumphant in both. Physician Barry Fleming romped to victory in the 6th District (Shreveport) and, in one of the major surprises of the years, attorney Joseph Cao became the first Vietnamese-American ever to be elected to Congress by winning the 1st District (New Orleans) — a district that is overwhelmingly Democratic and in which a majority of voters are African-American.  

Veteran GOP political consultant Nathan Wurtzel noted during a recent lunch that in Virginia this year, “Republicans have lost by less than 1% of the vote two races: one for the House of Delegates in Alexandria, which went 74% for Obama in November, and one for chairman of the Board of Supervisors of Fairfax County, which was 60% for Obama. Also, following a recount, they won the Braddock Supervisor seat in Fairfax County in a district that was 57% for Obama.”  

On this very slim basis, it’s difficult to conclude there is a swing back to the Republicans going on, but Republicans continue to do well in special elections nationwide this year. In Pennsylvania’s 29th Senate District (Schuykill County), Republican State Rep. David Argall won the special election in March to fill the seat of the late GOP Sen. Joseph Rhoades, who was killed in an accident last October and re-elected posthumously. Argall won handily after slamming his Democratic foe, Schuylkill County Clerk Stephen M. Lukach for wanting to raise taxes.

In Connecticut’s 70th state house district (Naugatuck), 33-year-old attorney Rosa Resimbas held onto the seat that fellow Republican Kevin DelGobbo resigned to become state commissioner of Public Utility Control. Resbimbas defeated Democrat Kevin McSherry by 78 votes out of nearly 2,000 cast and thus makes the line-up in the state House 113 Democrats to 37 Republicans.  

In Maine, conservative Republican Lance Harvell scored a major upset in the 89th District (Farmington-Industry) to win the state house seat vacated by Democratic Atty. Gen. Janet Mills.  Running on a platform of cutting funding for the state Department of Health and Human Services, Harvell defeated Democrat Dennis Haszko by a nearly 2-to-1 margin.  

Where Did They Land?

A New Endeavor:  Many alumni of the Bush Administration tell me of their difficulties in securing new employment in Washington with the Democrats now running the White House and both houses of Congress.  

But three Republicans decided to do something different: Instead of seeking out a fresh employer, they decided to become one themselves. Sean Spicer, Nathan Imperiale, and Gretchen Hamel have joined forces again to launch Endeavour Global Strategies. Rather than lobbying or government relations work, Endeavour intends to focus exclusively on full-service public relations, hoping to combine the media savvy of the trio with the latest social-networking techniques.  

What makes Endeavour particularly interesting is that all three co-founders sport backgrounds working for conservatives. Spicer, for example, was press secretary for onetime House Budget Committee Chairman Jim Nussle (R.-Iowa), who later served as head of the Office of Management and Budget. Hamel worked for former Rep. (1994-2002) J.C. Watts (R.-Okla.) and Imperiale was media director for the House Republican Conference. Until January, Spicer and Hamel handled press relations for U.S. Trade Representative Sue Schwab.

How this new firm of unabashedly conservative Republican media maestro fares in these Democratic times is sure to be closely watched by fellow job-seekers.   

To read the rest of March 30 edition of Gizzi on Politics, click here.