Trump, Clinton campaign aides launch their own bids

Trump, Clinton campaign aides launch their own bids
© Getty images

Campaign aides and state chairs from the 2016 presidential race are stepping out from behind the scenes for their own runs for office, looking to build on the momentum from their former presidential hopefuls’ bids.

Affiliation with a high-profile politician doesn’t always guarantee electoral success. Two office-seekers affiliated with President Trump’s presidential campaign flamed out earlier this year in congressional primaries in Georgia and Kansas.

ADVERTISEMENT

But there are still a number of figures who worked on the presidential runs of Trump, Democratic nominee Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonDemocrats bristle as Hicks appears for daylong Capitol Hill testimony Democrats bristle as Hicks appears for daylong Capitol Hill testimony Trump: 'So sad' Democrats are putting Hope Hicks 'through hell' MORE or Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersSanders denies tweet about corporate Democrats was dig at Warren Sanders denies tweet about corporate Democrats was dig at Warren Democrats asked to create ideal candidate to beat Trump pick white man: poll MORE (I-Vt.) who want to use their campaign chops as a springboard into higher office.

Here are five former presidential campaign figures who have either launched bids or are weighing ones. 

Ed Meier (D-Texas), Clinton policy aide

Meier, who served in a variety of roles in Clinton’s campaign and her State Department, is running to unseat powerful House Rules Committee Chairman Pete Sessions (R-Texas).

During the campaign, Meier first played a major role on Clinton’s policy team before co-chairing the Clinton presidential transition team that became obsolete after her November defeat.

Meier played up his experience with Clinton in his announcement video and chided Sessions for supporting Trump’s legislative agenda.

That might seem like an odd move in the conservative state. But while Sessions won Texas’s 32nd District running unopposed, the district went for Clinton in 2016, giving Democrats hope that anti-Trump sentiment could put it into play in 2018.

Sessions is a mainstay in the Texas GOP, having served in the House since 1997 and once heading the National Republican Campaign Committee. Republicans warn that knocking off a powerful lawmaker like Sessions will be a difficult task, even though his district backed Clinton.

Before facing Sessions, though, Meier will have to make it through the Democratic primary. There, he faces a field of candidates, including former NFL linebacker Colin Allred, who served a stint in the Obama administration’s Department of Housing and Urban Development after leaving the NFL.

Nick Ayers (R-Ga.), Trump/Pence senior adviser

Ayers is the highest-profile name in the group of presidential campaign aides turned potential candidates, with his name floated as a potential candidate for Georgia’s governor’s mansion.

Ayers has been a mainstay in Republican politics for a decade, working as a former top hand at the Republican Governors Association and as a campaign consultant.

Ayers joined up with the Trump campaign after Trump won the primary. There, he served as then-vice presidential nominee Mike PenceMichael (Mike) Richard PenceThe most important pledge Democratic presidential candidates can make Pence communications director to leave White House White House crowd sings 'Happy Birthday' to Trump MORE’s senior adviser and on the White House transition team.

Now, Ayers advises America First Policies, the Trump-affiliated nonprofit that promotes his agenda outside of the White House.

Ayers hasn’t confirmed or denied reports in outlets such as Politico and The Atlanta Journal-Constitution that he’s considering a bid for the wide-open gubernatorial field.

Ayers’s ties to Trump could be a blessing and a curse. Support from Trump’s fundraising infrastructure could provide Ayers with a leg up if he jumps in, and his work with Trump will go far with Trump loyalists.

But there are major warning signs coming from suburban Atlanta, where anti-Trump backlash has prompted a serious tightening in the upcoming House special election runoff there. That could mean that moderate Georgia Republicans will be willing to turn against the president, especially if a more moderate Republican makes a strong showing in the run-up to the primary.

State Rep. Geoff Diehl (R-Mass.), Trump state co-chair

Diehl is mulling whether to take on the herculean task of challenging progressive stalwart Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth Ann WarrenSanders denies tweet about corporate Democrats was dig at Warren Sanders denies tweet about corporate Democrats was dig at Warren Warren: 'On Juneteenth and every day: Black lives matter' MORE (D-Mass.).

One of the more conservative Republicans in the state legislature, Diehl was the first Massachusetts Republican to back Trump. And he stayed the course for Trump even as the state’s popular governor, Republican Charlie Baker, remained a vocal Trump opponent.

While Trump lost the reliably blue state in November, he blew out the field at its GOP primary.

Now, Diehl has set his sights on Warren, one of the right’s least-favorite politicians. Holding a press conference outside the state capitol last month, he blasted Warren for focusing on her national ambitions instead of her constituents and for opposing the GOP agenda, according to MassLive.

Warren’s popularity on the left means that she can print money — she raised more than $5 million in the first three months of 2017 and has a large stockpile of campaign cash to support her reelection bid, thanks in no small part to mounting speculation about a presidential bid.

But Republicans would love to knock Warren out of office, or at least hurt her image ahead of a presidential run.

So national GOP groups and donors may be willing to give the Republican nominee more money to spend, hoping they can pull off a surprise win in the seat to echo Republican Scott Brown’s win in 2010.

Pete D’Alessandro (D-Iowa), Sanders Iowa campaign coordinator

D’Alessandro has spent years working on Iowa campaigns as a political staffer but is leaning toward launching a bid of his own to take on Republican Rep. David Young.

The longtime campaign hand announced his exploratory committee last month, along with his intention to travel across the district as he weighs his decision.

D’Alessandro’s long career in Iowa with state politicians and presidential hopefuls looking to master the complicated Iowa caucuses gives him a deep familiarity with the state.

Sanders’s name still pulls a lot of weight in Iowa, where he drew a virtual tie with Clinton in the 2016 caucuses. That means a Sanders endorsement or campaign stop could prove valuable for D’Alessandro.

Young, a third-term lawmaker, is always on Democrats’ list of targets thanks to the district’s swing mentality. But he’s won each of his federal elections by at least 10 percentage points.

Lena Epstein (R-Mich.), Trump state co-chair

Epstein announced her bid Monday to become the first official Republican challenger to Democratic Sen. Debbie StabenowDeborah (Debbie) Ann Stabenow It's time to let Medicare to negotiate drug prices Trump judicial nominee says he withdrew over 'gross mischaracterizations' of record Trump judicial nominee says he withdrew over 'gross mischaracterizations' of record MORE.  

Epstein served as the co-chair for Trump’s operation in Michigan, where he pulled a major upset victory and won by about 10,000 votes. Until Trump, a Republican hadn’t won the state in a presidential contest since 1988.

Epstein, who has spent most of her adult life working for family-owned Vesco Oil, has little experience in politics outside of her role with the Trump campaign.

During a local radio appearance the day after she announced her bid, Epstein pitched herself as following Trump’s success as a business leader-turned-politician and said she is “unapologetic” about her ties to him.

“The politicians in Washington have failed us,” she said on Tuesday’s episode of “Michigan’s Big Show.”

“We spoke loud and clear in November of 2016. We said as a state, ‘We want an outsider candidate with business leadership skills who can inspire the people of Michigan.’ ”

Defeating Stabenow will be an uphill battle. The Michigan Democrat has been in the Senate since 2000 and was handily reelected to two more terms. And while Trump pulled off the stunning Wolverine State win in November, a February poll by EPIC/MRA found that he still sports a negative favorability rating in the state, which could complicate things for Epstein.

Rep. Fred Upton (R-Mich.), who was integral in helping the GOP’s bill to repeal and replace ObamaCare narrowly pass out of the House, is considering a Senate run and would immediately become the favorite in the GOP primary against Epstein.