Clinton filling out campaign team ahead of launch

AP News
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Posted: Mar 12, 2015 5:26 PM

WASHINGTON (AP) — Looking to move past the lingering scrutiny of her email habits as secretary of state, Hillary Rodham Clinton kept at work Thursday to build her communications team and campaign operations in early voting states.

Clinton is expected to launch her presidential campaign in the next few weeks. She has begun quietly assembling a political team in New Hampshire expected to be heavily influenced by confidantes of Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, a Clinton ally who won re-election there in 2014.

Robby Mook, Clinton's likely campaign manager, and Marlon Marshall, a top campaign aide, are leading the outreach in the nation's first presidential primary state, according to a Democratic official with direct knowledge of the outreach. The official was not authorized to discuss private conversations by name and spoke on the condition of anonymity.

Tracey Lewis, Clinton's 2008 field director in New Hampshire and a former aide to Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, has been assembling resumes of top operatives in the state, the official said.

It's not clear if the timetable for hiring staff was moved up because of the criticism about Clinton's use of a personal email address and private email server while at the State Department, which include questions about whether she fully met government transparency laws and policy requirements.

Clinton addressed reporters about the emails on Tuesday, after staying silent — save for a single tweet — for more than a week. Democrats have pointed to the email imbroglio as evidence that Clinton needs to launch an active campaign capable of swiftly responding to criticism.

"I think now is the time that issues like this should be vetted. It's during the primary season that a lot of questions or concerns are answered or put aside," said Steve Shurtleff, the House Democratic leader in New Hampshire. "I think it's good to get it out now."

Jesse Ferguson, a former top aide with the House Democrats' campaign committee, is expected to run the day-to-day press operation for Clinton's campaign, three people familiar with the discussions said Thursday. They spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly.

Ferguson will join departing White House communications director Jennifer Palmieri, who is expected to serve as the Clinton campaign's communications director, along with several press aides who have worked in Democratic politics.

Clinton is expected to formally begin her presidential campaign within the next month. She has signaled that she intends to run a vigorous primary campaign, starting with an announcement tour, even if the Democratic field remains small, to prepare for a general election against the Republican nominee.

Potential challengers include Vice President Joe Biden, former Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley, former Virginia Sen. Jim Webb and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, an independent.

O'Malley said in an interview Thursday on MSNBC's "Morning Joe" that "every year, there is the inevitable front-runner." He said he would decide this spring whether to run and he expects "a robust conversation" within the party.

In Iowa, Clinton's campaign is expected to be run by Matt Paul, a longtime adviser to Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, a former Iowa governor. Clinton stumbled in Iowa against Barack Obama in 2008 and the former first lady is likely to build a large field staff in the state.

Several South Carolina Democrats said Clinton again will hire Sunrise Communications, a Democratic consulting firm owned by Darrell Jackson, a prominent state senator and black pastor. Firm President Antjuan Seawright declined to confirm whether the relationship will extend to 2016.

Clinton said Tuesday that she chose to use a personal email account out of convenience, not wanting to carry both a personal and department-issued device. State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said that before 2014, the department's security protocols did not allow access to both private and government email accounts on the same device. She added that Clinton did not use a government-issued BlackBerry.

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Associated Press writers Kathleen Ronayne in Concord, New Hampshire, and Bill Barrow in Atlanta, contributed to this report.