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Updated: Ethan Smith to Take Reins of HDCC

By Keegan Gibson, Managing Editor

Update: The hire of Smith, 27 has been confirmed. The PA Dems sent out a release welcoming him to the team (below).

Pa. House Democrats had a rough year in 2010. They saw their 104 to 98 majority slip away in the GOP wave elections, losing a net 13 seats.

Multiple sources indicate that the caucus has selected Ethan Smith, a young operative from Pittsburgh, to steer the ship in the 2012 cycle as the House Democratic Campaign Committee’s Executive Director.

Smith is a relative newcomer. He graduated from the University of Pittsburgh in 2010, and most recently served as Deputy Campaign Manager for Allegheny County Executive-elect Rich Fitzgerald. There, he managed the day-to-day operations of the campaign as well as Fitzgerald’s primary endorsement by the Allegheny Dems.

Prior to that, he worked as a regional field director for Dan Onorato and as GOTV director for Mayor Luke Ravenstahl. He also worked briefly on Jack Panella’s 2009 bid for Pa. Supreme Court.

Sources indicate that Fitzgerald and others lobbied the Pittsburgh-centric House Dems’ caucus leadership on Smith’s behalf. HDCC is chaired by Rep. Brendan Boyle (D-Phila).

Other names that the caucus was rumored to be considering include Mike Dineen, campaign manager for David Wecht; Brad Koplinski, a Harrisburg City Councilman who has worked for several statewide candidates; Eric Nagy, campaign manager for Rep. Tim Holden’s 2010 re-election bid; and Vince Rongione, Chris Carney’s 2008 campaign manager and his Communications Director in Congress.

The job will be a tough one, especially in the light of redistricting. The new map is likely to strengthen Republicans’ hold on several swing seats, making it difficult or impossible for Dems to retake the majority this year.

Full disclosure: this writer was employed by the HDCC from June-November, 2010.

Here’s the PA Dems’ release:

Harrisburg, PA – Today, the Pennsylvania House Democratic Campaign Committee announced that Ethan Smith will join the team as their new Executive Director. The Pennsylvania Democratic Party congratulates the HDCC as they welcome Smith. Smith is from Pittsburgh and was most recently the Deputy Campaign Manager for the successful campaign of Allegheny County Executive-elect Rich Fitzgerald. He will help guide the HDCC as it heads into the important 2012 elections.

“I am excited to welcome Ethan Smith to the HDCC team and look forward to working together to fight for Democratic victories in the House,” said State Representative Brendan Boyle, the Chairman of the HDCC. “Coming off of a decisive win in Allegheny County, I know that Ethan has the leadership and skill to direct the HDCC in this all-important election year for House Democrats. Ethan is a major addition to the HDCC and we are grateful to have him join us.”

“This year is a critical year for Democrats in the Pennsylvania House, and I am proud to be joining the HDCC in those efforts,” said HDCC Executive Director Ethan Smith. “I look forward to working with Rep. Boyle and the entire HDCC team to promote Democratic wins in the House this fall. With Democrats working closely together at all levels in Pennsylvania, we will be able to elect Democrats who will fight for a better future for all Pennsylvanians.”

“The HDCC has gained a great asset with Ethan Smith joining as the new Executive Director,” said Pennsylvania Democratic Party Executive Director Kevin Washo. “Smith’s leadership will guide the HDCC in the important upcoming elections, and I look forward to working closely with him as all Democrats come together in 2012 to beat Republicans who have put partisanship and special interests before the middle class and elect Democrats who will put the interests of Pennsylvanians first.”

23 Responses

  1. There were some serious contenders on the list to be the executive director; HDCC would have been well represented. I would like to congratulate Ethan on his new position and as a member of the Onorato 2010 team from southeastern Pennsylvania, I can speak from experience and say that HDCC has a very competent and hardworking leader at the helm. While he has his work cut out for him, Ethan is a wartime consiglieri.

  2. MonVal-
    The dems have not spent jack in swpa outside of Allegheny Co. to my knowledge. Can you enlighten me on this? Republicans have invested in the area. Dems haven’t.

  3. I would like to congratulate Ethan Smith on his new position at the HDCC. Ethan is exactly what the Democrats need after redistricting. I had the pleasure of having Ethan on my field staff for several years and I know first hand how experienced, hardworking, and absolutely brilliant with number crunching/targeting he really is. Good Luck Ethan, see you in Harrisburg.

  4. Just as the jackals said to the honey badger, Mike Turzai has this to say to Jim
    I guess this is the Dems way of making Christmas come a little early for Mike Turzai. This kid is two years out of college, and, from my experience, utterly incompetent. If you look at the other candidates qualifications, this kid didn’t even belong in the same class as them. I think there must be something we don’t about know going on here. Because other than that, this makes no sense, unless the Dems are interested in becoming a permanent minority in the state house. The 2010 cycle was run incredibly poorly and resources were allocated to the wrong areas. Instead of defending seats like Levdansky’s we were hemmoraging money out in Elk County, where we were obliterated. Now, instead of putting in people who actually know how to get the job done, we put in this kid. I mean, I wish him the best of luck, but if we are realistic, we have to admit this wasn’t the best choice.

    As for calling the people that disagree with you “haters and numbskulls,” are you 15? Reasonable people are allowed to disagree.

  5. While I do agree with some of the sentiments of some of the people on here, I do not think bashing the kid is the best way to go about things. We need to give him a chance but I do believe that a more experienced choice could have been made, especially one who is able to challenge leadership. As a Western PA committee person who is fairly active I do see problems with what is becoming the Western PA Democratic Mob. The bulk of Democratic votes and money come from the eastern half of the state. Instead of harnessing this, the politicians from Western PA chose to dig their heels in the sand and realize that they are a dieing and very stubborn breed. Hence why the Republicans win, they realized that SEPA isn’t their bread and butter anymore so they went elsewhere (who would ever think that Repubs could win in NEPA or SWPA). Meanwhile the Dems have blown millions of dollars on candidacies of the likes of Mike Veon, Bill DeWeese, nearly everyone in Westmoreland/Beaver County and countless others just to name a few (you can go into the Fred Vero and Jason Petrella’s but there are litterally hundreds of them). It is this regionalism and narrowminded ness that SWPA (Allegheny County in particular) needs to rule that will forever keep us in the minority and as losers. Look at the narrowmindedness of the average voter in the west……they only vote for Dems statewide if they are their own (Christine Donohue and David Wecht are perfect examples). I always found eastern party leadership to be much more open about western candidacies, just go to an average state committee endorsement meeting (Boockvar is a really rare exception and she was never fully embraced by the west). It is truly sad that the leadership of the party is completely Western PA or their lapdogs. Without putting a true balance in there, especially in the House and Senate, this is what you are left with, fifedoms and regionalism at its worst. Jim Burn needs to rethink his position, either Costa or Dermody needs to step aside or balance their leadership teams and please don’t let Mike Doyle become the face of our congressional delegation. Good luck Ethan, because you are going to need to fight them on every targeted race they force you into.

  6. Sam and DemsStrike,
    Ron’s absolutely right – the haters on this page are a bunch of crybabies, malcontents and numbskulls. I think everyone can agree that the list of potential candidates was stellar, but, folks, rather than trusting that the Democratic Party, Brendan Boyle, Jim Burn, Dan Frankel, Frank Dermody, et al actually want to win – and therefore picked a damn good E.D. – you choose to whine or, what’s worse, denigrate the good work Ethan’s done. You all represent the chief reason why we “keep losing” – sitting on a blog and slamming a fellow Democrat rather than offering Ethan, Brendan and Jim your hand in support. Shame on you. Congrats, Ethan.

  7. Looks like lots of great people applied for this job. Ethan is an intelligent and hardworking operative that I got to know through the College Democrats. I look forward to his leadership to help the Democrats take back the State House!

  8. Numbskulls, Ron? Let me get this straight. You have a virtual Who’s Who list in PA Dem politics to choose from – Koplinski, Nagy, Dineen – and you walk away with this guy? Did Chairman Boyle even meet Smith or was he just delivered in a box from Jim Burn? As a lifelong and very active Democrat, it is no wonder why we KEEP LOSING. Early Christmas gift for the Republicans.

  9. Jim Burn has confirmed what we already knew by making this hire: the PA Dems are a joke. It’s a joke they installed an unqualified kid to do a job, particularly when they considered the candidates mentioned in the article above.

    But I’m sure Ethan is qualified enough to do what the PA Dems usually do best: leave the office promptly at 4:30pm to go to happy hour on 2nd Street.

  10. With the favorable redistricting, come November, we will have more seats in the House than the Democrats. Good for us.

  11. Hi, Doc, AKA Loser Who Ethan beat out for the job,
    I’ll do ya a better favor: direct you to monster dot com. Alas, if your skills in politics match your abilities at wit, you will remain perpetually unemployed.
    Gloating at your misery,

    PS I don’t think ANY of the people listed above as potential applicants for the position have anything to do with these trolls above. I know Mike, Brad and Vince and I’m not sure they even wanted the job – though any of them would have been a solid choice – just like the choice of Ethan Smith.

  12. You should not trash Smith because you didn’t get your yard sign on time in 2010. He did an admirable job in a tough year for Democrats. Onorato’s staff would say the same. Additionally, if you think Fitzgerald’s Primary win was a walk, you weren’t paying attention. Ethan was key in winning a Primary election against a FLAHERTY, in a town full of people that have a long history of taking their political allegiances to the grave. Show some respect for those that work hard to elect good Democrats by giving him a chance.

  13. I would like to congratulate Ethan Smith on his new position. I believe Ethat will be a strong asset to the house democratic caucus and our efforts to take back the house. I would urge the nay sayers to give him a chance, He has proven in this last election cycle that he has what it takes to lead the democrats to victory. Good Luck Ethan!

  14. Ron,
    This is a message from Doctor Lowbotome calling to confirm your lobotomy for Monday. Do us all a favor if you truly think Ethan is more qualified then all the others and proceed with the surgery.
    Dr. Lowbotome

  15. Clearly Ethan beat out these numbskulls for the job. The 14th Ward “Independent” Club is a bunch of loons perpetually howling at the moon. As for Chris Matta….you’re not a person. Nice try.
    I believe you can evaluate a person by his detractors – seeing this sad group of bashers, it confirms what anybody who has worked with Ethan already knows: Ethan Smith is the best person for the job.

  16. hiring a 23 year old with little work experience shows the complete ineptitude of the Democrats in this state.

  17. I hope that the Pennsylvania Democratic Party loves the latest bomb dropped by Jim Burn. A recent college grad whose record is worse than Lloyd McClendon’s with the Pirates? Would Obama appoint some West Point kid the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff? Probably not, but Jim Burn would. A third grader could have lead Fitz to a victory here in Allegheny County. This is just another reason why I am happy Jim Burn stepped down as Chairman of the Dems here in Allegheny and cannot wait till State Committee gives a vote of no confidence and boots his @$$ to the curb when his vision of an Obama victory in Pennsylvania crumbles because of his lack of EVERYTHING. Good luck to Ethan Smith, I hope you can tie your shoes by yourself in Harrisburg because Jimmy wont be there to do it for you.

  18. I am an active member of the 14th Ward Independent Democratic Club in Pittsburgh. I wish to voice my displeasure to the people who made this decision. Ethan is one of those people who you are never too sure why they are where they are. He doesn’t work hard, isn’t particular smart politically and not ready for a job like this. To hire a person without really looking into their credentials and background like this is wrong. I do not think the Democratic Party is doing themselves a favor and will seriously pay for this. If you do not understand where I am coming from, just understand that Ethan is one of the main reasons Allegheny County was as bad as it was in 2010 for Dan Onorato. Best of luck HDCC. You are going to need it.

  19. Ethan Smith? Really? I volunteered in 2010 and he was ill-prepared and incompetent. I guess this is Merry Christmas to Mike Turzai care of Dermody, Markosek, Frankel and Boyle.

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