Rahm’s mayoral bid: a mini presidential campaign bolstered by ex-White House staffers

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Emanuel campaign staffer Sally Armbuster at Emanuel headquarters. Armbuster is a former aide in the Obama White House Social Secretary office. (photo by Lynn Sweet) follow Lynn Sweet on Twitter: @LynnSweet

CHICAGO–Mayor-elect Rahm Emanuel’s successful mayoral campaign was organized like a mini-presidential campaign, staffed with former White House personnel and seasoned Illinois political operatives, covering 50 Chicago wards instead of 50 states.

Emanuel, a veteran of the Obama and Clinton White Houses, a former House member who chaired the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee — who has put together many campaigns — is running his pre-and post-mayoral election Chicago operation on a national model: Since returning to Chicago in October, he has formed committees to bankroll his campaign, his inauguration, his transition and his permanent political organization.

And mimicking a national campaign, Emanuel even put a flag pin on his suit lapel for his mayoral bid: A Chicago flag, that is.

Emanuel started to organize his campaign before he left his job as President Obama’s chief of staff on Oct. 1. Obama administration staffers — many with Illinois connections — provided a lot of the campaign infrastructure, complemented by hires of staffers who ran state and local campaigns in Illinois.

Once back in Chicago, almost everywhere Emanuel went was “advanced” — that is, checked out beforehand — by Mike Ruemmler and Mike Faulman, who were drafted out of the Obama White House advance shop. Faulman served as Emanuel’s “bodyman,” or traveling personnel assistant.

Communication Chief Ben LaBolt was a major and early hire for Emanuel, who snared the La Grange native from the White House press office where his national portfolio included a special niche developed during Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign: handling Chicago-related matters for the Obama administration.

The Deputy Press Secretary, Tarrah Cooper, came out of the Department of Homeland Security press shop. Emanuel’s mayoral scheduler, Kate Kochman, was his scheduler in the White House.

The chief financial officer of his campaign, Erin Mackey was the director of finance at the White House and before that a staffer in the Obama-Biden transition team and the budget manager for Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign.

At the start of the campaign, Emanuel was assisted by Jasculca Terman, the Chicago-based public affairs firm that fields a team with presidential-level experience, and Buffy Wicks, an Obama 2008 key field organizer, who was for a time a deputy director in the White House Office of Public Engagement, overseen by White House senior adviser Valerie Jarrett. Wicks is the vice president of political affairs at AKPD Message and Media, Emanuel’s media consultants. AKPD was founded by former White House Senior adviser David Axelrod.

The Emanuel fund-raising drive was run by Jordan Kaplan, who was a deputy finance director for the Obama presidential campaign and Obama’s Senate political operation, and Anne Olaimey, who ran the Business Liaison office at the Commerce Department — and who has raised money for Emanuel going back to his first House race in 2002.

Sally Armbruster was an assistant in first lady Michelle Obama’s Social Secretary office; she ran special events for Emanuel’s campaign.

There were about 40 or 50 paid staffers in Emanuel’s campaign, and Emanuel blanketed his White House alumni with local savvy: Matt Hynes, who has run Illinois statewide races, (his brother former Comptroller Dan Hynes) was a senior adviser dealing with political outreach; Blake Sercye, the political director, steered Gov. Quinn’s campaign African-American outreach. Field Director Anna Valencia ran Illinois state Senate races for State Senate President John Cullerton (D-Chicago), and policy chief David Spielfogel did the same job for Alexi Giannoulias’ Illinois U.S. Senate bid.

Deputy campaign manager Tom Bowen jumped into the Emanuel campaign from managing Forrest Claypool’s independent run for Cook County assessor and Giannoulias’ primary campaign. Bowen will be running Emanuel’s permanent political operation, the New Chicago Committee, a political action committee modeled after leadership PACs run by House, Senate and presidential candidates.

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