In Governor's Race, Campaign Managers Show Different Strengths

By Tim Craig
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, March 26, 2009

RICHMOND If you were running for the Democratic nomination for governor, would you rather your campaign be run by:

a.) someone who has a long track record of winning races for Virginia Democrats in general elections but has never managed a successful hard-fought primary contest?

b.) someone who has never worked in Virginia but who has a record of winning Democratic primaries?

c.) someone who has not managed a statewide campaign but is viewed as a rising star in the Virginia Democratic consulting world?

If you think you know the best answer, you might be able, as well as anyone, to predict the winner of the June 9 Democratic primary.

Although most of the focus will be on the three candidates, the actions of their campaign managers will play a significant role behind the scenes in determining the outcome in an election in which turnout is not expected to top 20 percent.

Statewide candidates rely on numerous staff members, including strategists, media consultants, pollsters and schedulers. But it's the campaign manager who oversees the budget and candidates' time, helps direct the message, develops a strategy and reaches out to activists and interest groups.

Terry McAuliffe has hired Mike Henry, a Democratic whiz kid, who is widely credited as a driving force behind the party's recent successes in Virginia. But despite his obvious talents, Henry has never managed a successful campaign in a Democratic primary.

In January, former delegate Brian Moran hired Andrew Roos to manage his campaign. Roos is making his inaugural foray into Virginia politics, but Moran said he hired him because he has experience in helping candidates win contested primaries. Last year, Roos oversaw Jack Markell's successful campaign for governor in Delaware. Markell won after Roos helped him upset then-Lt. Gov. John Carney in the Democratic primary.

State Sen. R. Creigh Deeds (Bath) has hired a relative newcomer in the world of campaign management for statewide races. Although Joe Abbey has worked on numerous campaigns in Virginia, most recently serving as Sen. Mark R. Warner's deputy campaign manager last year, he is managing his first statewide campaign.

"It definitely makes you work harder," Abbey said. "You want to prove you can do this for yourself."

Abbey, 30, got his start in politics in 2001 as a field organizer for the Virginia Democratic Party. His primary focus that year was Warner's race for governor, but the party also dispatched him to help Deeds win the special election for his Senate seat.

CONTINUED     1        >

© 2009 The Washington Post Company