Steele picks campaign communications head

Democrats criticize spokesman choice

March 31, 2006|By JENNIFER SKALKA | JENNIFER SKALKA,SUN REPORTER

Lt. Gov. Michael S. Steele has selected Doug Heye, communications director for U.S. Sen. Richard M. Burr of North Carolina, as his U.S. Senate campaign communications director.

"Doug will play a leading role in communicating my positive vision for the state and promoting my agenda of empowerment and opportunity for every Marylander," Steele, a Republican, said in a statement.

The selection of Heye, 33, has state Democrats clucking about two instances when the spokesman himself made news.

The Modesto (Calif.) Bee reported in December that while Heye worked as press secretary for U.S. Rep. Richard W. Pombo, a California Republican, he attended three World Wrestling Federation events in a skybox in Washington paid for by disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff.

The Wall Street Journal reported in 2000 that Heye took part in protests outside the Miami-Dade County elections office during the presidential campaign recount and was one of several Capitol Hill aides on "all expenses paid trips, courtesy of the Bush campaign."

"It's a strange choice for somebody who wants to be a bridge between people of various political persuasions," said David Paulson, a spokesman for the Maryland Democratic Party. "This is about as inside-the-Beltway corrupt and divisive a choice for a communications director as you can find."

Brian Nick, communications director for the National Republican Senatorial Committee, said that Abramoff had connections to members of both parties and that a press person shouldn't be condemned for watching a sporting event in a skybox also frequented by elected officials.

"Democratic senators, sitting Democratic senators, attended events, hosted events to raise money for their campaigns in these skyboxes," he said, adding that Heye doesn't make policy.

Heye, who is still working for Burr and was unavailable for comment, said in a statement that he's looking forward to the campaign. He is to start Thursday.

"I am excited and honored to join Michael Steele's campaign," he said. "He is a dynamic leader and will be a fresh, independent voice for Maryland in the United States Senate."

Heye replaces Leonardo Alcivar, who left as part of a shake-up last month and now works for Lynn Swann, the former football player running for governor in Pennsylvania as a Republican.

jennifer.skalka@baltsun.com

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