News

Stutzman joins Navigators as firm plants roots in California

Navigators, the public-relations and political-strategy firm that played a
key role in Governor Schwarzenegger’s recall victory and special-election
defeat, has hired former Schwarzenegger communications director Rob Stutzman
to help run its Sacramento office.

Speculation had swirled about the firm’s California future after last year’s
special election, when founder Mike Murphy announced he wanted to spend more
time on entertainment projects in Los Angeles, and principal Todd Harris was
dispatched to Florida to help open Navigators’ Tallahassee office.

But Stutzman’s hiring is a sign that the firm is in California to stay, says
Murphy.

“That was crazy speculation, because I was less visible,” he says. “Just the
Sacramento rumor mill spinning out of control. People jumped to
conclusions.”

Stutzman worked with Murphy and Harris during both the recall and the
special-election campaigns. Stutzman will be holding down the fort in
Sacramento as Harris shuttles between Sacramento and Tallahassee. Harris,
who worked for Senator John McCain’s 2000 presidential campaign, is expected
to return to presidential politics.

While Harris is expected to wind up on a presidential campaign via Florida,
Stutzman said he was looking forward to returning to the private sector, and
help secure the Navigators beachhead in Sacramento. “After 2.5 years I’m
ready to be home for a while,” he said.

Murphy says the firm likely will shy away from candidate work and focus on
corporate strategy, issue advocacy and communications strategy. “A lot of
what we do is behind the scenes,” he says. “But I think because we tend to
be low profile, people get confused and think we’ve checked out.”

Stutzman gives the firm more California experience. He served as
communications director for Rep. Dan Lungren’s gubernatorial campaign, and
was a founding partner in the GOP consulting firm Command Focus, with Mark
Bogetich and Dan Schnur. Stutzman still is on contract with the California
Republican Party through the November election.

Murphy, meanwhile, says he now spends “about 70 percent” of his time in Los
Angeles. He has a development deal with Comedy Central, is working on a
sitcom about political consultants, and also is working on an animated
comedy about history with comedian Dennis Miller.

Murphy says he’s not sure whether he’ll return to the political arena full
time, but says he still offers informal counsel to Schwarzenegger, McCain
and Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, who also is expected to run for
president in 2008.

“I’m sort of the Yoda of the firm,” Murphy says. “Rob and Todd know what
they’re doing. I’m just there to sort of guide them.”


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