Schwarzenegger’s chief of staff to jump ship?

(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.

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.


  1. Yup! She’s jumpin ship to get the heck away from a failing and tainted Administration and out to make some real $$.

    Just like Ahrnold will do when his term runs out!

  2. So how is a rumor news? You quote an anonymous source..who quotes ANOTHER anonymous source..and then run the story on that alone? And then write a story where EVERYONE else says it is not true??

    I do not care whether she goes to a PR firm or not..what I wonder is what your standard for journalism is. I wonder how many times someone has to tell you something is NOT TRUE before you decide maybe, just maybe, your ONE SOURCE is full of it.

    Seriously..are you practicing journalism, or trying to be the next gossip columnist? Jeez.

  3. Just a quick correction. Mercury Public Affairs worked with Goddard Claussen on the redistricting (Prop. 11) campaign, but Goddard Claussen was primary consultant and manager for that effort.

  4. All right, a little respect for Josh please.

    Do not question what Josh posts.

    Josh is always right.

    If you don’t believe it, just ask Josh. But you really don’t need to ask him. He will gladly volunteer the information.

  5. Once again, Elwood, your mouth outraces your brain.

    As noted at the top of the post, it was written by our Sacramento reporter Steve Harmon – whose skills and instincts I trust without reservation.

    But seeing as how you’ve been relatively restrained recently, I figure you’re overdue for your cheap-shot fix, so have at it.

  6. You still don’t get it, Elwood. It’s not that I’m always right, it’s that you’re very often demonstrably wrong (and pathologically unable to admit it) as you were yet again here today. Maybe you should consider a different hobby, as this whole “let’s needle the journalist” thing doesn’t seem to be making you look very good… but, hey, have yourself a GREAT weekend, and thanks for being such a loyal reader! 😉

  7. It ain’t about making me look good, Josh.

    I could care less.

    It’s all about showing you for what you really are: One of the world’s largest egos with one of the world’s smallest allotments of talent.

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