Tom Perriello, the Democrat who made a surprise entry into the Virginia governor’s race last month, has chosen a campaign manager who helped Sen. Bernie Sanders win the New Hampshire 2016 presidential primary against Hillary Clinton.
Julia Barnes, who ran the New Hampshire campaign for Sanders (Vt.-I) and served as his national field director, will run Perriello’s upstart bid for the Democratic nomination for governor. Perriello, a one-term congressman, is challenging Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam for the nomination.
Northam, who announced his intention to run in 2015, has locked up support from nearly every top elected Democrat in the state - including the political and fundraising network associated with Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D), who is prevented by term limits from running for re-election.
And the firm Revolution Messaging, which ran Sanders’ digital advertising and online fundraising, will serve a similar role in Perriello’s campaign.
They join Perriello as he tries to cast himself as the most progressive choice for governor and most outspoken opponent to President Donald Trump. Perriello’s campaign says they raised $1.1 million since entering the race on Jan. 5.
“Aggressive fundraising and aggressive hiring of Democratic activists are the way to convince primary voters that this is a serious effort,” said Stephen Farnsworth, a political scientist at the University of Mary Washington.
Perriello has rejected comparisons to Sanders, and instead said he looks to former President Barack Obama as his model for assembling a progressive coalition that turns out in high numbers.
Angelique Cannon-Harris, who served as the Democratic National Committee’s interim finance director in late 2016 while overseeing Clinton’s mid-Atlantic fundraising, is leading Perriello’s campaign finance strategy.
Pete Brodnitz, a pollster who advised Clinton and Virginia Sen. Tim Kaine, will also offer strategic advice.
“The combination of Sanders’ activists and some Clinton hands is a pretty fascinating group,” said Bob Holsworth, a longtime Virginia political analyst. “He’s been able to do that in part because there’s not a lot of governors’ races going on. There was some talent out there, and he’s identified it and clearly raised enough money to hire it.”
Perriello also has fewer veteran Virginia state operatives on his payroll, many of whom had already lined up behind Northam. An exception is his deputy campaign manager Don Mark, a onetime political director for the state party and Obama’s 2012 Virginia campaign who most recently worked in the Richmond mayor’s office.
Northam has amassed endorsements from scores of local party activists across the state, including Sanders supporters.
His top two campaign aides worked on his successful 2013 lieutenant governor campaign, and he recently hired longtime Virginia Democratic operative Chris Bolling as his political director.
An earlier version of this story incorrectly reported that Brodnitz had worked for Sen. Mark Warner. The pollster had worked for Sen. Tim Kaine. This story has been updated.