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Thursday, August 12,2010

Virg Watch

On board: a campaign veteran and a former staffer

by Andy Balaskovitz
virg.jpgVirg Bernero has hired Lt. Gov. John Cherry's former chief of staff to run his campaign for governor.

Bernero also tapped Cullen Schwarz, who worked in his 2005 race for mayor of Lansing, to be his communications director.

Walt Herzig, a 17-year political campaign veteran, was named the campaign manager, while Schwarz, a Bernero staffer during his 2005 successful mayoral run, will replace communications director Jamaine Dickens, who will head communications for the state Democratic Coordinated Campaign.

Democratic political consultant Joe DiSano said the new hires will help transition the campaign from primaries mode to the broader general election.

“They are both top-notch political talent,” DiSano said. “They will bring a much broader perspective and are ready to hit the ground running.”

Both candidates’ work experience backs up DiSano’s thoughts.

Herzig’s last position was the Michigan director for the 2010 Census and before that he was chief of staff for Cherry. He also served as director of the Michigan Democratic Party Coordinated Campaign for almost two years leading up to the 2006 election – a good year for Michigan Democrats.

Along with his involvement in the Granholm administration, the University of Michigan graduate also spent four years as the special assistant to U.S. Sen. Carl Levin from 1997 to 2001.

Running campaign communications will be 2003 Western Michigan University graduate Schwarz, who was campaign manager on Bernero’s successful 2005 mayoral run. He will leave his current position as communications director for U.S. Rep. Gary Peters in Washington.

Schwarz is a busy man at the moment, wrapping up his work with Peters, preparing for the Bernero campaign and selling belongings on Craigslist. He moves back to Michigan Friday and officially begins work for Bernero on Monday, he said.

“I lived in Lansing during Virg's first term and saw for myself how he fought for good jobs and new investment and erased Lansing's budget deficit,” Schwarz said.

DiSano said Bernero has been trying to get Schwarz on board since the beginning of his run for governor.

“Virg has been trying to hire Cullen since day one,” DiSano said, adding that Schwarz had recently moved to Washington when Bernero announced his campaign for governor. “He and the mayor have a great relationship.”

DiSano added that having two experienced campaign organizers with proven success in Michigan elections will be advantageous against Bernero opponent Rick Snyder’s staff, who he said has been brought in “from all over the country.”

The Associated Press reported today that Bill Nowling, spokesman for the state House Republicans, will take over as Snyder’s communications director, replacing Jake Suski who moved back to California.

In all, DiSano said these are good first steps for the Bernero campaign.

“I have been getting cryptic text messages asking me, ‘What does it all mean?’” DiSano said, referring to people who want to know about the new hires. “I tell them, ‘The right people are in place to win.’”

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