Republican to Lead Fight on Gun Violence

By Judy Sarasohn
Thursday, May 4, 2006

The Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence -- formerly Handgun Control -- has tapped a Republican to lead its organization.

The Republican in question -- okay, so he's a moderate Republican -- is Paul Helmke , the former three-term mayor of Fort Wayne, Ind.

He'll take over as president on July 1, succeeding former Maryland Democratic congressman Michael D. Barnes , who announced in October his plans to step down.

"We wanted a leader who can help broaden the coalition of Americans leading the fight to reduce gun violence and take action to get illegal guns out of our communities," Phyllis Segal , chair of the Brady Campaign Board of Trustees, said in a statement.

Helmke said: "I always felt it was not a Democratic-Republican issue or a conservative-liberal issue. It's a safety issue."

One of the campaign's big efforts currently is fighting illegal gun trafficking. Helmke said he wants to strengthen the group's relations with the nation's mayors.

Currently in private law practice in Fort Wayne, Helmke has served as president of the U.S. Conference of Mayors. He ran for Senate in 1998 but lost to Democrat Evan Bayh.

Mercury Rising

Terry Nelson , national political director for the '04 Bush-Cheney campaign and most recently a senior adviser to Sen. John McCain's Straight Talk America political action committee, has joined the Mercury Public Affairs communications shop, a Fleishman-Hillard company.

It's a coup for New York-based Mercury. Fleishman announced yesterday that Mercury is merging its D.C. government relations operations with Fleishman-Hillard Government Relations . The two shops will maintain their brand names, but Mercury will be responsible for day-to-day management.

FHGR has been experiencing a talent drain in recent years. Fleishman folks are sure to hope that bringing Nelson on board and increasing Mercury's role will help stem the tide.

Mercury has a total of 36 professionals in several offices, including eight in Washington. FHGR has five here. Combined, they'll offer clients lobbying, polling, grass-roots organizing, advertising and more.

Mercury's Kirill Goncharenko , who served as an aide to then-Sen. Alphonse M. D'Amato (R-N.Y.), who will oversee the combined operation, acknowledged that FHGR had issues. "We're addressing those issues." "We feel we're creating a platform for a premier, bipartisan government relations firm," Goncharenko said.

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