(This post comes courtesy of Steve Harmon, our man in Sacramento…)
The administration is knocking down rumors that Susan Kennedy, the all-powerful and influential chief of staff for Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, is preparing to leave the administration for a job with Mercury Public Affairs to shepherd the water bond campaign.
“No,” said Aaron McLear, spokesman for Schwarzenegger. “It’s not happening.”
But sources say it makes sense that she would head to a political firm with close ties to Schwarzenegger. With Schwarzenegger heading into his final year, many of his cabinet members and staffers are likely to bail on him seeking stable employment.
With Finance Director Mike Genest having announced his departure last week, Kennedy is likely to stay on at least until the administration assembles the budget in January, sources said. At that point, one source said, she would take her water expertise to Mercury, which is expected to be a prominent player in the bond campaign – if not the main campaign committee for it. Mercury most recently ran Schwarzenegger’s ballot measure campaign on redistricting.
“I was told by a good source – a very senior person from inside the horseshoe – six, seven weeks ago that once she got water done, she’d go to Mercury to make some money off the campaign,” one source said, asking not to be identified.
Credited as a central figure in ushering the water deal through the Legislature, Kennedy would be a perfect addition to Mercury. Steve Schmidt, who ran the governor’s re-election campaign in 2006 is a partner, as is Adam Mendelsohn, ex-Schwarzenegger communications director and deputy chief of staff under Kennedy.
Fabian Nunez, the former Democratic Assembly Speaker, is also a partner, and would welcome another Democrat in the Republican-leaning firm. Kennedy previously served as deputy chief of staff for Schwarzenegger’s predecessor, Gray Davis, and was a central player in water politics then, too.
One source familiar with the dynamics of the water bond pooh-poohed the speculation, saying it may have grown out of a lunch meeting that Kennedy had with stakeholders discussing a potential water bond campaign.
“Coming out of that, someone got the wrong idea,” said the source, who asked not to be identified because the source was not authorized to talk.