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Jeb Bush has scored the biggest hire so far from the failed presidential campaign of former Texas Gov. Rick Perry.
The Bush campaign has recruited Ray Sullivan, who ran the pro-Perry super-PAC network that raised more than $17 million, tapping a vein of Texas money that's been waiting to be redirected since Perry quit the race on Sep. 11.
Sullivan's recruitment, first reported by the Texas Tribune on Thursday, could give Bush supporters an even greater advantage than they already have in raising huge sums of money for the former Florida governor. The pro-Bush Right to Rise PAC set records when it raised more than $100 million before June 30.
As a former chief of staff to Perry and a senior aide to George W. Bush when he was Texas governor, Sullivan's contacts in the state are impeccable and his credibility with the multimillion-dollar Perry donor network is unmatched, says Austin Barbour, a senior adviser to the Opportunity and Freedom super-PAC network for which Sullivan worked in support of Perry's bid for the Republican nomination.
"Ray's a talent, man," Barbour said on Thursday. "He's a sharp guy. Knows Texas politics ... knows all the people to know in state government in Texas and in the Republican political business in Texas."
"I think the big key is [Sullivan] has instant credibility with Governor Perry's political and donor network throughout the state. That means a lot."
"He'll really help [Bush] with all those Texans who see themselves as Perry people. There's a lot of them," Barbour added.
The pro-Perry super-PACs are returning their roughly $13 million in leftover money to donors, which includes $5 million to Texan Darwin Deason and $6 million to Texas energy mogul Kelcy Warren.
Since Perry's campaign collapsed two weeks ago, Barbour says he has been talking regularly to Sullivan and the two have been trying to decide what they are going to do next.
Barbour, who says he will decide his next move "in the next day or so," congratulated Sullivan earlier today on his move to the Bush campaign.
Bush campaign spokeswoman Allie Brandenburger said "Gov. Bush is excited to have Ray on the team and thankful for his support promoting Gov. Bush’s message of opportunity and building on our grassroots organization in the state."
The Bush campaign approached Sullivan soon after Perry left the race.
Sullivan said in a phone interview with The Hill on Thursday that he told the Bush campaign on Wednesday that he would "be happy to help in any way they want." He has no title and will stay in Texas.
Sullivan is the veteran of four presidential campaigns: George H.W. Bush 1992, George W. Bush 2000, Perry in 2012 and the Perry super-PAC network in 2016.
Sullivan said he believes Bush has the strongest record of conservative reform of the remaining candidates in the Republican field.
"Texas, as you know, is a massive pool of funding for conservative and Republican candidates," Sullivan said, adding that he thinks there will be plenty of former Perry money and support available to Bush.
"Historically there's been a significant amount of overlap between Perry and George W. Bush donors," Sullivan said.
"The type of donor who backed Rick Perry is a conservative who appreciates experienced leadership and political and policy results," Sullivan added.
"Another way to say that is I think the Perry donors and activists would feel most comfortable with another governor as opposed to a member of congress. So I think there's potential there for Jeb Bush."