It’s been an eventful week for Andy Shallal.
On Tuesday, the Busboys and Poets owner announced his candidacy for D.C. mayor, generating some significant grass-roots buzz. On Wednesday, he came out swinging in the first mayoral debate, calling answers by his career-politician competitors “obnoxious.”
By Thursday, it turns out, he had also shaken up his nascent campaign team, parting ways with the political operative intended to be his senior field director – and the only one in his inner circle with experience running a recent citywide campaign.
According to the outgoing Keith Carbone, that was apparently the problem.
Carbone’s previous incarnations in District politics include roles as Council member Jack Evans’s 2008 campaign manager, and as a consultant to Council member Vincent Orange during his 2011 and 2012 at-large races.
That resume and potential insight on two other mayoral candidates seemed like an asset when Shallal called him in New York two weeks ago, Carbone said he was led to believe. But after arriving in D.C. to work with Shallal this week, Carbone said the candidate’s thinking had clearly changed. Any connection to the D.C. political establishment had come to be viewed as a liability, he said, and perhaps worse, cause for concern about loyalty.
“I tried to tell them ‘I’m a political operative, this is what I do’,” Carbone said. But the tension with campaign manager and former labor leader Bob Muehlenkamp only intensified, Carbone said.
“I think it’s a clash of two things,” Carbone said. “It’s a group of political neophytes who are very, very overly cautious of what they see as the ‘dirty world of D.C. politics,’ and this eagerness to somehow be a completely out-of-the-box campaign.
“The impression I got is that they think ‘we don’t need anyone with any experience on a local campaign, we’re going to succeed on the sheer attractiveness of our message’.”
Shallal campaign spokesman Dwight Kirk confirmed that Carbone is no longer with the campaign but said he had no comment about the breakup.
But Carbone’s early departure has led to an early peek inside Shallal’s campaign.
There was debate right up until Shallal picked up petitions last week about whether he would be best off running as a Democrat, or skipping the primary and running as an independent, Carbone said.
Major concerns for the April 1 primary are now fundraising and even securing the 2,000 signatures needed before January to qualify for the ballot, Carbone added.
And though Shallal has yet to hold a fundraiser, he may be paying his top aides handsomely.
Had Carbone stuck around and Shallal won the primary, the agreed upon salary would have put him in position to collect almost six figures by Election Day — no small sum for a field director in city politics.
Carbone spent a week in D.C. for Shallal, but is now gone — and not expecting to be paid for the work.