The U.S. Senate campaign leaders

Dan Gallic, who is more-or-less running his friend Joe Pennacchio’s not-yet-official U.S. Senate campaign, turns 40 next week. Compared to other campaign workers, that makes him a pretty old hand in this business.

“I’m officially old,” said Gallic, who also blogs for the Web site Conservatives With Attitude. “That’s the number one issue why I’m not going to necessarily step up to the plate for being a campaign manager, but in the same breath I can say I’m going to do everything I can to help Joe.”

Gallic is older than his two likely behind-the-scenes opponents in the upcoming senate race, but not by that much. Mark Duffy, who was just tapped to manage Republican Anne Evans Estabrook’s campaign, is 34, while Sen. Frank Lautenberg’s campaign manager, Brendan Gill, is 33. While all three have considerable political experience, none has taken the lead role in a statewide campaign until now.

But Gallic isn’t sure just how much he wants to be a campaign manager. Instead, he looks at it more like helping a friend, and is hesitant to commit to any full-time political job because of his career as a real estate consultant and five young children.

Gallic’s work for Pennacchio is his foray back into politics after a short absence. Aside from having a young family to attend to, he grew disenchanted with some of the politicians he’s worked for. In 2005, he was executive director of the Monmouth County Republican Party – the same year when Operation Bid Rig netted eleven mostly Republican Monmouth County officials on various corruption charges. He also worked as a campaign manager for former Essex County Executive James Treffinger in 2002, who pleaded guilty the next year to corruption charges.

“I do I believe my candidates are honest and for the public good, and that wasn’t the case,” said Gallic. “I was very idealistic at the time, and I’m certainly a lot more cynical at this point.”

But Gallic’s campaign experience wasn’t limited to candidates who later turned out to have legal troubles . He worked as a senior advisor for Doug Forester’s 2002 U. S. Senate bid and managed state Sen. Anthony Bucco’s competitive 2003 race against Blair Mac Innes.

Having worked for Forrester, Gallic said that he’s wary of a moderate candidate like Estabrook’s chances to win in New Jersey.

“It’s going to be the same thing. To me it’s boring, so why don’t we try something different. Joe is definitely something different,” said Gallic.

Gallic, who leans farther to the right than the average New Jersey politician, said that he was attracted to Pennacchio’s pro-life stance and his history as a Reagan Democrat who worked his way through dental school at a pizza parlor. But he also wouldn’t be working on a potential Senate campaign if 2008 wasn’t a presidential year.

“It’s just more fun,” said Gallic.

While the 83-year-old Lautenberg is by far the oldest candidate in the field, his campaign manager, Brendan Gill, is the youngest of the three. But true to the theme of his campaign, Gill said that age is not an issue.

“I don’t necessarily think age has anything to do with it – it’s a profession you have to have a passion for, just like anything else. The way I view my service is that I’m in government and politics because I believe in public service,” he said.

Gill, a Montclair native, first came to know Lautenberg when he interned for him during college. He has been involved in campaigns since graduating from Seton Hall in 1996, when he took a job as a field aide for then-congressional candidate Bill Pascrell who, like Lautenberg, is from Paterson.

In between working staff jobs at Pascrell’s office and in Passaic County government, Gill worked on former state Sen. Garry Furnari’s 1997 state Senate re-election campaign, became field director for Pascrell’s 1998 reelection bid and ran state Sen. Nia Gill’s 2001 primary against Sheila Oliver. After that, U.S. Rep. Steve Rothman tapped Gill to run his New Jersey field office, where he spent some time raising Rothman’s state wide profile (Rothman is considered a potential successor to Lautenberg should he retire).

After working for Rothman for three years, Gill coordinated Gov. Corzine’s campaign in Monmouth County and worked as a field director for Bob Menendez’s Senate run the next year. He then took a job as a spokesman for the Department of Transportation, where he worked until he was asked to run Lautenberg’s campaign.

“Last year was my first statewide race in terms of the position, and this is the first time I’m managing a statewide campaign,” said Gill.

Gill said that Lautenberg hasn’t necessarily latched on to the hot button issues, but makes a real effort to effect change, like spearheading the effort to ban smoking on airplanes, raise the drinking age, get more homeland security funding for the state and stem cell research.

“Not to throw too much rhetoric at you but he really has a lengthy record of working on those issues that are not always the most glamorous but effect peoples’ every day lives and really do make a difference,” said Gill.

Some Republicans have pinned their hopes on Duffy to kick start Anne Estabrook’s Senate campaign. Unlike Pennacchio, Estabrook declared her candidacy in October and formally announced earlier this month.

Observers saw Duffy taking the position with Estabrook’s campaign as an interesting move, since during his time as the Assembly Republican Campaign Director in 2005 and 2007, and as Executive Director of intergovernmental affairs for the Assembly Republicans, he was the right hand man of Assembly Minority Leader Alex DeCroce, who’s supporting Pennacchio.

Duffy had not met Estabrook until last month.

“It all happened kind of fast – we met shortly after the last election and had very good conversations, and shortly thereafter she asked me to come on board,” he said.

Duffy began his career in politics when he was still in high school, stuffing envelopes for W. Carey Edward’s 1989 Republican gubernatorial nomination bid. During college, he interned with the Republican State Committee under then-Chairman Chuck Haytaian, and got a job with the Christie Whitman Campaign under then-campaign manager Tom Wilson right after graduating from college in 1996.

In 2003, Duffy ran Catherine DiCostanzo’s Mercer County Executive campaign, narrowly losing to Brian Hughes.

Duffy dismissed Gallic’s criticism that Estabrook is too much the formulaic New Jersey Republican, touting her business record as an alternative to Lautenberg.

“I think when voters get to know Anne, they will see that she built a successful business essentially on her own, and she wants to bring that experience to represent New Jersey in Washington,” said Duffy.

The U.S. Senate campaign leaders