Ones to watch

While the firm’s principals are familiar to Sacramento insiders, Andrew Acosta and Roger Salazar have quickly made names for themselves since going out on their own in 2004. The firm serves political clients like Alyson Huber and Doris Matsui, and also represents coalitions, like the California Healthcare Partnership, and a group that tried to fight new diesel truck regulations at the Air Resources Board. The firm also has an eye for young talent, bringing on people like Brian Brokaw and Jennifer Wonnacott.

Jessica Biller, Vice President, Lucas Public Affairs
As the longtime vice president for Porter Novelli Sacramento, Biller has experience managing large-scale communications plans for corporate clients.  Earlier this year, Biller joined Donna Lucas, the doyenne of the Sacramento public affairs world, as VP of Lucas Public Affairs. She has worked closely with the Schwarzenegger team, working on the 2005 special election.

Yvette Martinez Bracamonte, Progressive Strategy Partners
Rose Kapolczynski and Yvette Martinez Bracamonte are perhaps better known outside Sacramento than inside. But that does not mean they are lacking in inside clout. The firm not only represents U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer, but also Sen. Alex Padilla.
Bracamonte has a political resume that includes work for Rep. Hilda Solis, and Los Angeles School Board President Monica Garcia.
Bracamonte is has also helped campaigns designed their Spanish-language outreach programs, and has worked as a Spanish language spokesperson for numerous campaigns.

Duane Dichiara, Coronado Communications
In the 2006 interview with the Capitol Weekly, Duane Dichiara said “The goal of most political operatives is to avoid having their name in the press.” Which might seem to make it odd that the former chief of staff to GOP legislators Mark Wyland and Shirley Horton is so good at getting exposure for his clients—a list that has included Congressman Brian Bilbray, numerous state GOP legislators, business groups and Governor Schwarzenegger. But unlike some communications specialists we won’t mention, Dichiara the quintessential behind-the-scenes guy, networking via his work on campaigns, the state party and Senate and Assembly Republican Chiefs of Staff Association.  

Jared Ficker, California Strategies
Ficker is responsible for California Strategies’ extensive renewable energy portfolio. Since joining the firm in 2003, he has focused on land use, environmental, alternative energy, development, mitigation, and permitting issues. He helps his clients navigate the perilous regulatory waters of the California Coastal Commision, Air Resources Board, and other regulatory agencies.
He has worked in Washington in the Dept. of Interior, and ran the ground operation for Rusty Areias’s run for state Senate in 2002.

Bryan Merica, ID Media
Ask almost any campaign consultant in California, and it seems like they’ve worked with Bryan Merica. Since forming ID Media in 2003, Merica has broken new ground running a political consulting firm that is, first and foremost, a technology and online strategy company.
Merica has fused his software background with his love for politics to create a new prototype for political consulting firms as more and more political and public affairs campaigns struggle to put forward a coordinated, effective Internet marketing strategy.

Paul Mitchell, Paul Mitchell Public Affairs
As the political director of EdVoice, Paul Mitchell pushed the group’s millionaire board members to be more aggressive in their political spending. While the group ultimately did not succeed in electing its president, Christopher Cabaldon, to the state Assembly, Mitchell earned a reputation as a creative political tactician who was not afraid to take some risks. Since leaving EdVoice, Mitchell has struck out on his own, and helped groups like the Caliofrnia Medical Assocaition and the Consumer Attorneys of California in their independent expenditure campaigns this fall. He also serves as an informal adviser to a number of Assemblymembers, many of whom benefited from Mitchell’s campaign support. He is also running Alex Rooker’s campaign for Democratic Party Chair.

Josh Pulliam, JPM&M, Inc.
Pulliam is one of the rising political consultants in Sacramento, making his mark this year by guiding Manuel Perez through a crowded primary field and on to a comfortable Assembly victory this fall. Pulliam has also done work for a number of independent expenditure committees and Indian tribes, labor unions and law enforcement groups, primary in the area of direct mail. Pulliam has also cut his teeth as campaign manager for Props 72 and 54.

Julie Soderlund, Wilson-Miller Communications
Soderlund was a spokeswoman for Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger before joining Wilson-Miller in 2007. While she continues to serve as the governor’s campaign spokesperson, she now offers public affairs and communications support for a wide array of clients including state and local political campaigns, corporations and trade associations.

Robin Swanson, Swanson Communications
At a recent rally against Prop. 8, a protestor carried a sign that read: “Dear chickens, can we borrow your political consultant? Signed, the gays.” Part of the team was communications specialist Robin Swanson, who organized numerous photo opps in support for the farm animal rights measure. After nearly seven years working for Kaufman Campaigns, one of the premiere progressive communications firms in Sacramento, Swanson opened her own shop this April. She is also a frequent commentator on TV, in newspapers and on blogs—and has completed four marathons. Her next project—actually getting her firm’s website online.  

Shawnda Westly, Shawnda Westly Consulting
After a brief stint with Gavin Newsom’s nascent gubernatorial campaign, Westly landed on her feet, running John Burton’s campaign  for Democratic Party chairman. Westly has worked on numerous independent expenditure campaigns, most on behalf of labor interests.
Westly is the former political director of the California Professional Firefighters, which found itself on the front lines of the efforts to save Gov. Gray Davis’s job in 2003, and to beat back Gov. Schwarzenegger’s special election initiatives in 2005.

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