Young Operatives Guide Governors Associations

by Stuart Rothenberg September 12, 2007 · 12:05 AM EDT

The fate of governors nationwide currently is in the hands of two very young operatives.

Democratic Governors Association Executive Director Nathan Daschle, 33, and Republican Governors Association Executive Director Nick Ayers, 25, lead multimillion-dollar campaign committees that could impact Congressional redistricting and even produce a future president of the United States.

Ayers is from Atlanta and attended Kennesaw State University, 20 miles north of the city. But before he finished school, at age 19, he signed on to help Republican Sonny Perdue in his long-shot bid to defeat incumbent Georgia Gov. Roy Barnes (D). After Perdue’s 51 percent to 46 percent upset victory, Ayers continued to work as a political adviser to the governor.

In 2004, Ayers guided Karen Handel’s (R) successful run for the Fulton County Board of Commissioners. (She is now Georgia’s secretary of state after her 2006 victory.) After Handel’s initial victory, Ayers focused on Perdue’s 2006 re-election race, which he won convincingly, 58 percent to 38 percent.

When Perdue was subsequently elected chairman of the RGA, the Georgia Republican appointed Ayers to manage the committee.

While Ayers is a political animal, Daschle’s profile is much different, despite his political pedigree.

Daschle was raised in Washington, D.C., and is the son of the former Senate Democratic Leader Tom Daschle (S.D.). Nathan Daschle graduated from Northwestern University in 1995 and went to work on Tom Strickland’s (D) unsuccessful U.S. Senate campaign in Colorado. Ironically, GOP operative Dick Wadhams managed the campaign of then-Rep. Wayne Allard (R), who defeated Strickland, and of John Thune (R), who defeated Sen. Daschle in 2004.

“Dick Wadhams has been terrorizing my family for many years,” Daschle joked.

After Colorado, Nathan worked for the Natural Resources Defense Council as a legislative associate and for the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees as a legislative representative. He went on to Harvard Law School, graduating in 2002, and then to work as an attorney at Covington & Burling.

In 2005, Daschle became director of policy and counsel at the DGA, where he served until becoming executive director earlier this year.