Chris Nicholas Is Bucking His Party to Stand by Longtime Client Sen. Arlen Specter

Politics Magazine, July 2009 | Go to article overview

Chris Nicholas Is Bucking His Party to Stand by Longtime Client Sen. Arlen Specter


Politics: How is the Democratic establishment in the state responding to Sen. Specter? Are you finding you have to do a lot of convincing?

Nicholas: Well, his party ID may have changed, but the political outreach we do never stops. We've always had a really aggressive outreach program, not necessarily to Democratic Party leaders, although he always had a lot of support from Democrats. It was more so with soft Democrats and other folks like that. Now that we're focused on the primary, we're reaching out to a lot of Democratic Party regulars and what's been surprising so far, especially in the southeast part of the state, is how many of them already know the senator. So I don't think it's convincing that we need to do, but there is some reassuring going on. Also, I think people underestimate the fact that Sen. Specter is a really good retail politician. And we're certainly ready for the primary. The senator never has easy primaries--it's just not in the cards.

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

Politics: Should the party establishment in state or nationally be in the business of discouraging Rep. Joe Sestak from running for this seat?

Nicholas: That's up to them. What I will say, though, is that it's interesting that in 2006 then-candidate Sestak benefited from that type of operation when Gov. Rendell got Brian Lentz to run for the state House instead of running for Congress. So it's interesting that Mr. Sestak benefited from the type of outreach he's now sounding the alarm about. But you know what--the primary will work itself out.

Politics: What was the decision process like for you in terms of deciding to remain the senator's campaign manager after he switched parties?

Nicholas: It was definitely a process. They did not put any pressure on me to hurry up and make a decision, which I appreciated. And I didn't put any pressure on myself to hurry up and make a decision either. I just wanted to experience it, because it's not like there's a playbook for this--at least if there is I haven't found it. What it came down to is the commitment I had made to the senator and his family and his team to get him reelected, and I wanted to keep that commitment.

Politics: Did you think about potential business ramifications from that decision in terms of current or future clients?

Nicholas: Did I think about future clients? Yes. As for current clients, [Specter] was pretty much going to be it. But sure, it was a concern. I think people will understand my longtime work with the senator and my commitment to getting him reelected. And I'm fine with the fact that there may be ramifications, but I also know that I do good work and ultimately I think that's what moves you along in this business. I'm confident that I will be able to move forward. Obviously it's something you think about because I run a really small shop, but 2012 is eons away.

Politics: And you still consider yourself a Republican consultant?

Nicholas: Absolutely. I've always been a Republican consultant. I haven't signed up a Democratic client--I was with a client who became a Democrat. I understand why the senator did that, and I'm behind him in his reelection. …

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