Montgomery County Council member Steven A. Silverman (D-At Large), a candidate for county executive next year, has hired several architects of Democrat Timothy M. Kaine's victory over Republican Jerry W. Kilgore in the Virginia governor's race.
Silverman's campaign announced yesterday that Karl Struble and David Eichenbaum, both top Kaine aides, will head up Silverman's advertising strategy. Their firm, Struble Eichenbaum Communications, has a number of Democratic senators and House members as clients.
MSCH Partners Inc., headed by Hal Malchow, ran Kaine's direct-mail effort and has been hired to do the same for Silverman. Malchow worked for President Bill Clinton in 1996. Kaine's pollster, Peter Brodnitz of the Benenson Strategy Group, has also joined Silverman's team.
Silverman, who expects to spend $1 million on his race, said the selections demonstrate his determination to match Kaine's success at reaching out to suburban voters concerned about growth, traffic congestion and education.
"They spent the last three months knee-deep in Northern Virginia's suburban challenges, and we face similar challenges in Montgomery," Silverman said.
The team of operatives is credited with identifying Kilgore's weakness in Virginia's generally Republican outer suburbs, such as Loudoun and Prince William counties, and with crafting a Democratic message of property tax relief, spending for education and efforts to control growth and traffic.
Kaine won big not only in reliably Democratic Arlington County but also in Republican-leaning western Fairfax. He also won Loudoun and Prince William, two counties where President Bush easily defeated Sen. John F. Kerry in last year's presidential race.
The addition of three nationally recognized political consulting firms bolsters Silverman's statements that he plans to run an aggressive campaign, complete with television ads in the costly Washington market.
One of Silverman's rivals for the Democratic nomination, Isiah Leggett, who said he expects to be heavily outspent by Silverman, said the hires show his opponent is ramping up a "big style, large-scale campaign operation" that is likely to go negative.
"If Montgomery County becomes like Philadelphia, where we have these incredible political machines, we don't speak to issues. We don't speak to qualifications," said Leggett, who was on the council from 1986 to 2002.
Silverman said he intends to run a "grass-roots, issues-orientated race." But he noted that candidates for countywide office in Montgomery County -- which has about half again as many people as a congressional district -- have been hiring pollsters and airing television ads for two decades.
"I don't think you can run for a countywide office to represent a million people without putting together a good team," he said.