Ace Smith to run Clinton’s Calif. campaign

senatorclinton.jpgThe 2008 presidential campaign of U.S. Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y., has tapped Bay Area political consultant Averell “Ace” Smith — who last year helped turn Oakland Mayor Jerry Brown into California Attorney General Jerry Brown — as its California director, overseeing the primary campaign’s day-to-day operations here.

“The thing that’s so appealling about working for Hillary is, first of all, she’s one of the smartest candidates to run for president in a long, long time — she’s incredibly impressive, and her heart is in the right place,” Smith told me this morning, adding he believes she’s the only one who truly cares that middle-class real wages are stagnant or falling while costs rise and the rich get richer.

Smith, of Kentfield, said California “is going to be really important for the first time since 1968 because of the Feb. 5 primary,” and the national press still haven’t caught up to the fact that this state’s early voting — which begins 29 days before the primary election — will deliver the first enormous bloc of votes to whichever candidate seizes people’s hearts and minds.

“So we’re going to organize every corner of the state and create a campaign that touches as many people as possible,” Smith said, adding Clinton will outstrip her rivals here “just with hard work, it’s really just that simple — We have a huge force of volunteers and everyone on the Clinton campaign is ready to roll up his or her sleeves and work day and night.”

Smith and his SCN Public Relations firm are well known in campaign consulting circles, particularly — at least, among his past opponents — for excelling at “opposition research,” the fine art of digging up dirt on one’s rivals. Besides Brown, his past clients have included San Francisco District Attorney Kamala Harris, San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom, Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif.; U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif.; former Gov. Gray Davis; Virigina governors Doug Wilder and Tim Kaine; former Texas Gov. Ann Richards; 2004 Democratic presidential candidate Howard Dean; and many others.

“Ace is a talented organizer who knows California and knows what it takes to win,” Clinton said in a news release. “We’re lucky to have him leading our effort in the Golden State.”

mccain.jpgIn other campaign news, the 2008 presidential campaign of U.S. Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., announced today that former California Secretary of State Bill Jones chair its California effort, meaning he will “take the lead on Senator McCain’s political outreach and use his years of statewide experience on major issues to help advise a successful statewide effort,” the release says.

“Bill is a respected public figure in California and I am proud to have him on board,” McCain — who’s speaking later today at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University — said in the release. “He and I share a belief in the need for renewed leadership in America and I look forward to the discussion with Californians about what our country can be capable of in the future.”

Jones — then California’s top Republican elected official — made a splash in 2000 by switching his support in the GOP primary from George W. Bush to McCain; here’s an interesting story about how, despite that endorsement, the primary-election rules Jones helped create weren’t so great for McCain’s cause. McCain came and stumped for Jones during his unsuccessful 2004 bid to unseat Boxer.

“John McCain’s established record of leadership will go a long way with California’s Republican voters. He has been a leader on our critically important issues for many years and understands the challenges facing California better than any other candidate,” Jones said in McCain’s news release today. “Senator McCain has shown throughout his life that he is capable of making difficult decisions based on a set of core conservative principles and that’s exactly the type of leadership Californians need for the future.”

Josh Richman

Josh Richman covers state and national politics for the Bay Area News Group. A New York City native, he earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Missouri and reported for the Express-Times of Easton, Pa. for five years before coming to the Oakland Tribune and ANG Newspapers in 1997. He is a frequent guest on KQED Channel 9’s “This Week in Northern California;” a proud father; an Eagle Scout; a somewhat skilled player of low-stakes poker; a rather good cook; a firm believer in the use of semicolons; and an unabashed political junkie who will never, EVER seek elected office.