DALLAS: Texas Senate hopeful Ron Kirk (D) has abruptly switched communications directors in the midst of his too-close-to-call race against state Attorney General John Cornyn.
The national Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC) immediately sent its own press secretary, Robert Gibbs, to replace Tim Warner. Official sources wouldn't discuss the specifics of Warner's sudden departure, although political reporters rated his work as lackluster, and said the campaign hadn't provided some information as promptly as they would have liked.
DSCC communications director Tovah Ravitz said Gibbs wouldn't be replaced, and would retain some of his responsibilities with that organization.
"Part of our job is to help campaigns find press secretaries, and frankly, we're done," she said.
Ravitz ranked the Kirk/Cornyn contest as one of the nation's most important - while also stressing the significance of Senate races in Arkansas, South Dakota, and New Hampshire. "We have a tremendous opportunity because Sen. (Phil) Gramm (R-TX) decided to retire and cracked it wide open for us."
Gibbs worked with campaign manager Carol Butler on other races, including the 2002 effort for Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), said press secretary Justin Lonon, who has been with Kirk since the candidate's days as Dallas mayor.
The change came just as the traditional post-Labor Day campaign season began, although the politicians and their spokespeople have been bashing each other since March. Cornyn's communications director, David Beckwith, then described Texas Democratic candidates as a "racial quota ticket," a statement Cornyn himself later retracted.
Cornyn, a reserved former state supreme court justice, has leaned heavily on Beckwith despite that apparent misstep. Beckwith, VP Dan Quayle's former press secretary, is often quoted on Cornyn's behalf. The charismatic Kirk, however, seems to prefer speaking to journalists directly.