Adam Mendelsohn to leave Schwarzenegger administration

Adam Mendelsohn, who helped guide the turnaround of Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s administration after the disastrous 2005 special election, is leaving his job as Schwarzenegger’s communications director. He will be replaced by Matt David, the deputy communications director for Schwarzenegger’s 2006 re-election campaign.

Administration sources confirmed the planned personnel change Wednesday. David and Mendelsohn are expected to overlap as Mendelsohn helps bring David up to speed. Mendelsohn is expected to leave sometime in February.

The coming weeks promise to be a rocky time for the administration as the governor unveils a budget with what is estimated to be a $14 billion hole. There are sure to be policy fights with Democrats and Republicans alike over proposed budget cuts.

Schwarzenegger must also lobby Senate leader Don Perata, D-Oakland, to pass the governor’s health care plan out of the Senate in time to circulate a funding initiative for the November 2008 ballot.

Sources said Mendelsohn’s departure was not expected to be the beginning of a major administration exodus. Two years ago, a number of top administration officials left within days of each other. But this time, the core of the Schwarzenegger administration is likely to stay intact.

Administration sources say Mendelsohn is leaving voluntarily, but not because he has another job lined up. He has a 2-year-old daughter at home and another one on the way this spring. But whatever Mendelsohn does next, he is expected to play a role on the Schwarzenegger political team as it ramps up to campaign for a health care initiative on the November 2008 ballot.

Neither Mendelsohn nor David would comment for this story.

David, a Republican, will be the governor’s third communications director since taking office in November 2003. But unlike the last major administration personnel change in late 2005, the transition from Mendelsohn to David is seen as a continuation of the administration’s current path rather than an ideological shift inside the Horseshoe.

Mendelsohn, who once worked for moderate Republican Bruce McPherson, assumed control of the governor’s communications shop after Schwarzenegger took a pounding from voters in 2005. The governor’s four ballot initiatives were all defeated at the polls, and ideological divisions were rampant inside the administration.

Schwarzenegger replaced Chief of Staff Pat Clarey, a veteran of the Pete Wilson administration, with Susan Kennedy, a top lieutenant to Democratic Gov. Gray Davis. Together, Kennedy, a Democrat, and Mendelsohn, a Republican, led the retooling of the Schwarzenegger administration and helped position the governor for an easy re-election victory in 2006, while curbing voices on the far left and far right inside the governor’s office.

In that time, Mendelsohn helped position Schwarzenegger as an international environmental figure who gained worldwide attention in 2006 for signing AB32, the greenhouse gas emissions bill authored by two Assembly Democrats, Fran Pavley, D-Agoura Hills and Fabian Núñez, D-Los Angeles.

The transition from Mendelsohn to David is expected to be much smoother than the shakeup of 2005. Mendelsohn strongly recommended David to be his successor, and the two worked closely together in 2006 during Schwarzenegger’s re-election effort.

David led the rapid response efforts for Schwarzenegger’s re-election campaign in 2006, serving as the campaign’s deputy communications director. In 2007, David signed on to John McCain’s presidential campaign but left as part of a massive campaign shakeup in July 2007.

“Matt is a consummate professional who brings a great sense of humor and spirit to everything he does,” said Katie Levinson, who supervised David as the Schwarzenegger campaign’s communications director and who now works as communications director for Rudy Giuliani’s presidential campaign. “The governor is lucky to have him back in Sacramento.  He’ll be a fantastic addition to an already stellar team.”

Since leaving the McCain campaign, David has served as communications director for Freedom’s Watch, a group that has been vocal in supporting the Iraq War. According to its Web site, the group “provides a credible conservative voice and strong leadership on pressing domestic and international issues to keep America strong, safe, and prosperous.”

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