Gov. Bobby Jindal is expected to announce this week that he’s running for president, but he already has spent the past few months quietly assembling a group of political operatives who will make up the framework for his 2016 team.
Through his American Future Project organization, political action committees and presidential exploratory committee, Jindal has managed to hire key strategists and place staffers in Iowa and New Hampshire, as well as Washington, D.C.
They haven’t necessarily all been marquee campaign veterans, and they aren’t yet running a large-scale operation like some of the other Republican candidates.
But many of the faces are familiar in Louisiana — longtime political allies of Jindal who have worked on his previous campaigns or in the Governor’s Office.
Pearson Cross, a political scientist at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, said, at least in the early stages, he expects that to continue.
“It’s going to look a lot like Team Jindal in Louisiana has looked,” Cross said. “There’s a big transfer of his staff over.”
“If the governor decides to run, we want to have a top notch team ready to launch his campaign,” Timmy Teepell, a Jindal strategist, said in a prepared statement.
The low-key Jindal operation may be due — in part — to lack of money at this point, Cross speculated. Jindal has trailed near the back of a crowded GOP field in most polls.
“He’s going to have to be somewhat conservative in the beginning, making his dollars count,” Cross said.
On Wednesday, Jindal will formally announce his 2016 intentions at the Pontchartrain Center in Kenner, but it hasn’t been a secret that he has been eyeing a run.
With more than a dozen Republicans jumping into the 2016 race, the competition is fierce for the best political operatives — and the favorable publicity that can come along with those hires.
“If he can get some of those people to sign onto his campaign, that would be a big victory,” Cross said. “If you land someone who is really good, who has run one of these before, it can signal a vote of confidence.”
The operation is being driven by Teepell, one of Jindal’s closest political advisers, who previously served as his chief of staff in the Governor’s Office.
Teepell managed Jindal’s congressional campaigns in 2004 and 2006, as well as his 2007 run for governor. He has been serving as senior adviser to Jindal’s presidential exploratory committee in recent weeks.
Last week, Jindal announced the departure of Chief of Staff Kyle Plotkin and Governor’s Office spokeswoman Shannon Bates Dirmann. Both are now expected to move to his 2016 campaign team. More moves could be on the way.
Others who have made the transition from Governor’s Office to the likely campaign team include Taylor Teepell, Timmy Teepell’s brother, who served as Jindal’s deputy chief of staff until he was moved to Iowa in April, and Matt Parker, Teepell’s brother-in-law, who previously served as the governor’s legislative affairs director. Taylor Teepell and Parker are now running Jindal’s national engagement efforts from Iowa.
Meanwhile, Allee Bautsch Grunewald, who has worked with Jindal since 2003, will reportedly resume her position heading up Jindal’s campaign finance operations.
The Advocate analyzed published reports, regularly circulated by Jindal’s political allies, as well as social media profiles of those who have been named among his PACs and other political organizations.
In addition to keeping members of his team who helped get him elected governor of Louisiana, several of Jindal’s hires have ties to Florida Gov. Rick Scott and the Republican Governors Association. Jindal is vice chairman of the RGA and previously served as its chairman, and he has several connections to Scott’s staff.
Tim Saler, who served as deputy campaign manager for Scott’s most recent campaign, will reportedly serve as deputy manager for Jindal’s campaign.
Another key adviser, Gail Gitcho, is a former RGA communications director. She served as a top communications staffer for Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign and is also a former Republican National Committee press secretary.
Jindal’s digital director, Bradley Engle, also worked on campaigns for Scott and the RGA.
Jill Neunaber, who worked on Romney’s 2012 campaign, has spent nearly two years heading up Jindal’s America Next efforts. She’s now advising Jindal in early primary states and is expected to play a large role in his Iowa campaign.
Matt Horihan, who most recently led a successful congressional campaign in Iowa, has been picked to serve as the director of Jindal’s Iowa effort.
In New Hampshire, Team Jindal has hired Henry Goodwin, who worked for Republican Walt Havenstein’s unsuccessful bid for governor there in 2014.
Several of the people expected to work on Jindal’s campaign have ties to the RNC.
Janice Knopp, who is expected to run Jindal’s direct mail operations, is a former RNC finance director.
Florida lawyer Heather Sidwell Morris, who previously worked for the RNC, reportedly has been tapped as legal counsel to the campaign.
Blaise Hazelwood, who also held high-level positions in the RNC, is expected to serve as a senior adviser to Team Jindal.
Liz Murray has been leading national fundraising efforts for Jindal’s nonprofit America Next — a position that is expected to transition to the Jindal campaign once it’s official.
Follow Elizabeth Crisp on Twitter, @elizabethcrisp.
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