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Months in, Sestak still without a campaign manager

Months in, Sestak still without a campaign manager

Less than five months before primary voters go to the polls, there are few 2010 hopefuls who have yet to hire a campaign manager.

But in Pennsylvania’s highest-profile primary, Congressman Joe Sestak (D-7) stands as an exception. Five months after formally declaring his challenge to Senator Arlen Specter, Sestak has yet to hire a campaign manager. The second-term congressman has always run campaigns with something of a different style, but as he takes on the different beast of a statewide race, political observers have been curious to see how he adapts.

In an interview Wednesday, spokesman Jonathon Dworkin played down the lack of a campaign manager, saying one would be brought on when the time is right.

“The congressman is very comfortable with the way things have been going on the campaign right now,” Dworkin said. “He hasn’t spent a lot of time actively looking for someone, and he’s happy with the leadership team in place right now. … When the time is right to bring someone on that we’ll do so.”

“This is a different kind of campaign,” he added. “We’ve known that from the beginning.”

Sestak is currently enjoying another round of local publicity as he travels the state on what his campaign is billing a “kitchen-call” tour, and the fact that he has yet to hire a campaign chief may mean little. But many party insiders agree that an experienced statewide manager will be needed sooner rather than later. Meanwhile, the campaign is run primarily by three people. His brother Richard, who has managed Sestak’s past campaigns, is the campaign director. Rich Culbert, who worked on Sestak’s 2006 campaign and has also worked for Mark Warner in Virginia, is the political director. And Dworkin is handling communications.

One factor that may be at play is the Democratic Party’s strong support for Specter, which could conceivably discourage operatives from working for Sestak.

“I can’t speak for anyone in particular, but certainly the fact that the establishment is supporting his opponent … is part of the dynamic, and there are certain things that come with that,” Dworkin said. “People involved with the establishment might stay away from backing us publicly.”

January 6, 2010 at 4:20 pm

--Dan Hirschhorn

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