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Political Notebook

Fla. congresswoman to head DNC

Wasserman Schultz quickly became a favorite of Obama. Wasserman Schultz quickly became a favorite of Obama.
April 6, 2011

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WASHINGTON — Debbie Wasserman Schultz, a congresswoman from South Florida and a key White House defender, was chosen yesterday by President Obama to become chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee.

Obama picked the four-term lawmaker from South Florida to succeed Tim Kaine, who earlier announced he would seek a Senate seat in Virginia.

The move elevates Wasserman Schultz to a crucial role as Obama looks toward a campaign that will use the DNC to define his likely Republican rivals.

“As Chairman Kaine departs, new leadership must come on,’’ Vice President Joe Biden wrote to members of the Democratic National Committee, which will have to ratify her selection. “In selecting Debbie to lead our party, President Obama noted her tenacity, her strength, her fighting spirit, and her ability to overcome adversity.’’

Wasserman Schultz, who backed onetime Obama rival Hillary Rodham Clinton during the 2008 presidential primary, quickly became a favorite of the Obama campaign. Representing the crucial swing state of Florida, Wasserman Schultz became a high-profile advocate for the Obama campaign and then the White House.

“I couldn’t have gotten through ’08 in Florida without her and she’s been there every step of the way through the first term,’’ said Steve Schale, a political consultant who ran Obama’s Florida operation.

“She is a tireless advocate, she’s loyal, but she’s not a soldier — she’s a leader.’’

The DNC remained almost $18 million in debt at the end of February. The committee spent heavily in an effort to defend majorities in the Senate and House; Senator Harry Reid, the Nevada Democrat, remains majority leader, but Republicans captured the House and Nancy Pelosi fell from the speaker’s role.

Kaine said he will run for the Senate in Virginia in next year’s election, bolstering his party’s chances of keeping the open seat by having a proven fund-raiser and former governor of the state in the race.

The seat opened up when Senator James Webb said in February he won’t seek reelection. Former senator George Allen, the Republican Webb defeated, is already in the race, along with Republican Jamie Radtke, the Richmond Tea Party chairwoman.

— Associated Press

Another Republican toe to test the water in N.H.WASHINGTON — He’s the (soon-to-be-former) ambassador to China and former Republican governor of Utah.

And next month — in a move that will generate waves of political interest — Jon Huntsman Jr. will be stepping more fully into his role as potential presidential candidate, with his first public appearance in New Hampshire.

Southern New Hampshire University’s president, Paul LeBlanc, confirmed last night that Huntsman has accepted an invitation to be the commencement speaker at the Manchester school on May 21.

“The politics of the state of New Hampshire right now are so rancorous and polemical, and a lot of people like the fact that Huntsman seems to defy that ideological rigidity,’’ LeBlanc said.

With a moderate profile and a resume that includes an ambassadorship under the current presidential administration, Huntsman — if he chooses to run for president — would be competing with former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney for moderates, independents, and crossover Democrats in the New Hampshire Republican primary.

Huntsman also shares Romney’s Mormon faith, which could be a factor in another early and potentially crucial GOP primary state, Nevada.

LeBlanc said the Huntsman appearance does not reflect any endorsement by him or the university.

But if recent history is a guide, a graduation speech at Southern New Hampshire University could be the equivalent of political gold. In 2007, the university’s commencement speaker was Barack Obama, the senator from Illinois.

— Christopher Rowland

Brown adds $1.7 million for ’12 reelection runSenator Scott Brown raised an impressive $1.7 million in the first three months of the year and has accumulated $8.3 million so far to spend on his run for reelection next year.

The figures are part of a federal finance report that the Republican senator will file on April 15, a Brown aide said yesterday.

By some estimates, Brown could spend up to $25 million on his campaign, in which he is seeking his first full term after replacing the late Senator Edward M. Kennedy in February 2010.

Brown’s office also revealed he has set up a political action committee, ScottPAC, that will allow him to broaden his base.

Former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney, an expected candidate for the 2012 GOP presidential nomination, has the “Free and Strong America PAC,’’ while former Alaska governor Sarah Palin, another potential candidate next year, has the similarly named “SarahPAC.’’

Romney revealed last week that he had raised $1.9 million in the first three months of the year through his national PAC.

Also yesterday, Salem’s mayor, Kim Driscoll, announced she will not seek the Democratic nomination to challenge Brown, citing her current job and young family.

Potential challengers to Brown have cited the daunting amount of money they would need to raise as a potentially decisive factor when considering whether to run.

— Glen Johnson

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