Walsh ramps up his campaign by hiring key Democratic strategists
Mayor Martin J. Walsh has stepped outside of his trusted circle of political advisers to hire some of the best-known Democratic strategists in the region as he seeks to show voters why he should get a second term in this year’s election.
Walsh has hired Stephanie Cutter, the messaging mastermind who helped derail former governor Mitt Romney’s presidential hopes in 2012. He has also assembled a new digital team aimed at reaching voters online.
His growing political team — packed with former operatives from the Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama presidential bids — also includes a new campaign manager, John Laadt, a City Hall employee who also worked on the Obama and Clinton campaigns.
Walsh said he wanted to put “the right team together,” adding that he is not taking anything for granted.
“I love this job, and I will do everything I can to make sure that the people of Boston see that I should be sent back for another four more years,” he said.
Walsh’s top opposition is currently City Councilor Tito Jackson, who trails in fund-raising for the race, which technically starts next month, when candidates file their paperwork.
The formation of Walsh’s political team could be an indication that the mayor is taking Jackson’s challenge seriously. It could also mean the mayor has set his sights on higher office in the long term, some political watchers say.
If Walsh wins big, it “reinforces the idea that he’s Boston’s mayor and he is a political force to be reckoned with,’’ said Erin O’Brien, a political scientist at the University of Massachusetts Boston who was a policy consultant on Walsh’s first mayoral campaign.
Walsh’s announcement comes as the mayor prepares for a series of fund-raisers in five neighborhoods. The mayor said the events are less of an opportunity to build on his $4 million campaign war chest and more of a chance to get people excited about his campaign.
He is also shopping for a larger political office and other campaign offices across the city. He is expected to hire more staff ahead of the Sept. 26 preliminary and Nov. 7 municipal elections.
Jackson’s campaign manager, Charles Onwuche, who worked on Obama’s re-election and the Clinton 2016 campaign, said the councilor also has big-name advisors in his camp. He noted that Bill Hyers, a political strategist and Obama’s former Pennsylvania director in the 2012 race, is advising Jackson’s mayoral run.
Jackson, pressing a cause for better schools and closing the income inequality gap, has stepped up his campaigning with a slew of public events, including a “Women for Tito” soiree last week that drew dozens of supporters.
Onwuche said that it is good to see that the mayor is finally building his campaign team after announcing his reelection bid in a live Globe interview in September.
“This gives Boston residents an opportunity to reflect on the last three years and see whether the administration has lived up to its campaign promises,” Onwuche said.
Walsh said that with his expanded team, he will be able to get his message out about his accomplishments for the city.
“Even if I was unopposed, I think it is important to take an opportunity to recap the first term, but also really lay down plans for the next four years,’’ Walsh said.
To spread his achievements, Walsh has hired two partners from Precision Strategies — Cutter and Teddy Goff — to shape the narrative about his administration’s accomplishments in the first three years Walsh has been in office, the mayor said.
Cutter is a former deputy campaign manager for Obama’s 2012 reelection who is credited with turning the tables on Romney in the 2012 presidential contest by using his financial success at Bain Capital against him.
But Cutter took major heat for her role as the national spokeswoman in the failed presidential bid of former US senator John Kerry in 2004. Many blamed her for the campaign’s seemingly lackluster response to attacks on Kerry’s military record in Vietnam.
Cutter, a Raynham native, also worked for then-Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, the late US senator Edward M. Kennedy, and former president Clinton. She did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Goff, who lives in Manhattan, had been the digital director for Obama’s re-election campaign, according to his firm’s website.
Laadt, Walsh’s new campaign manager, is the city’s current director of the 311 help line, a job he has held since December, according to his LinkedIn profile.
He has had various roles in the Walsh administration, serving as the Allston-Brighton liaison and an aide to the chief of environment, energy, and open space. The Allston resident has a background in political organizing and community engagement and was a regional organizing director in Pennsylvania for the Clinton campaign along with Onwuche, the Jackson campaign manager.
Stefan Smith, from Greenville, S.C., was hired as digital director. Smith was the deputy digital director for Clinton’s campaign in Michigan, where he served as both content lead and digital liaison to the African-American and labor coalitions, Walsh officials said.
The other members of the Walsh team are Michael Whouley and Lynda Tocci, both of whom previously advised the mayor. They have more than 25 years in the field and are partners at Dewey Square Group, a Boston consulting firm.