Political Intelligence

Political operatives on both sides serve two candidates

Kyle Sullivan and Doug Rubin (above) split their time between two races.
Pat Greenhouse/Globe Staff
Kyle Sullivan and Doug Rubin (above) split their time between two races.

During a recent Democratic caucus in Newton, Elizabeth Warren worked one side of the room while Joseph P. Kennedy III worked the other.

In between them stood Kyle Sullivan, their shared communications adviser.

Sullivan and his business partner, Doug Rubin, are splitting their time between two of the hottest political races not just in Massachusetts but the country.

It speaks to the reputation Rubin built locally helping Timothy Cahill win his first term as treasurer and Deval Patrick win both of his terms as governor.

It also attests to his national name through past work with David Axelrod and David Plouffe, President Obama’s top political advisers.

Sullivan, meanwhile, has earned his stripes as a communications aide to former state Senator James Jajuga, US Senator John Kerry, and Patrick, whom he served as gubernatorial communications director.

But it also prompts questions about divided loyalties, as Warren and Kennedy face different challengers and issue sets while campaigning simultaneously for the US Senate and US House, respectively.

They’re the same questions faced by Eric Fehrnstrom and his associates at The Shawmut Group as the Republicans advise not only Mitt Romney on his presidential campaign, but US Senator Scott Brown on his likely fall matchup with Warren.

Fehrnstrom has occasionally tweeted about Brown while traveling for Romney.

While Rubin remains firmly rooted in the state, like Fehrnstrom he dismisses any concern he can’t serve both principals effectively.

“Our firm has the capability to advise multiple political clients at the same time,’’ he said in a prepared statement.

“We have done so successfully for a number of years, most recently working in 2010 for the statewide campaigns of Governor Deval Patrick and Treasurer Steve Grossman.

“We are excited to be working with strong campaign teams and exceptional candidates in Elizabeth Warren and Joe Kennedy.’’

Indeed, Warren is also receiving assistance with her campaign from former Clinton adviser Mandy Grunwald.

Kennedy, meanwhile, is getting polling help from veteran Massachusetts operative Tom Kiley. Yet so, too, is Warren.

But Rubin and Sullivan’s involvement in both the Warren and Kennedy campaigns shows how Democratic candidates believe they’ve figured out the winning formula for Massachusetts.

Governor stands by his lieutenant

In word and deed in the past few weeks, Governor Deval Patrick has signaled that his administration is ready to accept whatever fallout may remain from lingering questions about the Nov. 2 car accident involving Lieutenant Governor Timothy P. Murray.

First, the governor had a top legal aide deny requests from the Globe, Boston Herald, and other news organizations for a detailed list of Murray’s cellphone activity both before and after he rolled over his state-issued sedan in a predawn accident.

Murray insists he wasn’t on his phone and hadn’t been doing anything improper before the crash, but his statement that the accident occurred while he was inspecting storm damage - from a highway, in the dark - has raised doubts about that explanation.

Instead, the governor’s deputy chief counsel, E. Abim Thomas, told the organizations they would get statements that only list the office’s cellphone charges in lump sums. She refused to ask Verizon Wireless to provide the additional list of individual phone calls.

The governor’s office used to receive bills with such a detailed accounting before Patrick became governor; now it only receives the much more generic summary.

It could get the requested bills with a few clicks of a computer mouse, as the Massachusetts Republican Party gleefully documented last week, but Patrick insists that isn’t the point.

“It’s important because there’s a precedent here, and you can imagine where this leads,’’ he told Jim Braude last week during an appearance on NECN. “I’m not going to spend my time creating records to answer some question that isn’t even specific from the general public. I don’t think that’s where we should go.’’

Patrick has already said he is not seeking reelection, so he risks no further fallout from voters for this or any other decision - unless he wants to run for higher office someday. Murray, though, ostensibly wants to succeed him in just two years.

For now, the appearance of stonewalling can only hurt him.

Glen Johnson is lead blogger for Political Intelligence, available online at He can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @globeglen