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Insider Interview: Amy Dacey

In the days and weeks following Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry's loss in the 2004 presidential election, the massive campaign staff he had constructed quickly dissolved. They returned to their lives as consultants, lobbyists and staffers on Capitol Hill, and quickly began the search for a new candidate in 2008.

Not Amy Dacey. Dacey, who joined Kerry's presidential effort in 2003 and eventually rose to be the traveling political director in the general election, stuck by the Massachusetts Senator -- helping him wrap up the inevitable loose ends of a national bid, and then moving to the staff of his leadership political action committee.

Amy Dacey and John Kerry
Amy Dacey with Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.)

"I felt very strongly that I wanted to continue working with him," said Dacey. "Right after the election he wanted to get right back up and work on this. That was impressive to me and I wanted to be a part of it."

Dacey herself carries an impressive resume and one that defines her as a nomadic campaign operative -- willing to go wherever a competitive race needs her.

Her training began earlier -- age 8. She was paid in comic books to work on her father's campaign for school board in Cayuga County, New York. (He won.)

After graduating from the Binghamton University, which also happens to be the alma mater of the Post's own Tony Kornheiser, Dacey made her way to Washington and graduate school at American University.

Her first job came at the National Foundation of Women Legislators but she quickly returned to Upstate New York -- working on as deputy campaign manager for Rep. Maurice Hinchey's (D) re-election race in 1996. She shuttled back to Washington after that victory to work for New York Rep. Louise Slaughter (D) and shepherded the Congresswoman to a seventh term in 1998.

Dacey's skills caught the eye of veteran operative Karin Johansen who had been named political director at the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee for the 2000 election cycle. Johansen hired her to be deputy political director.

In 2001 Dacey took a brief break from the road to help set up an Emily's List program to groom women to run for state legislative office. The call of the campaign lured Dacey to the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee in 2002 where she was deputy political director.

In a sign of her travels to come, Dacey spent the final weeks of the 2002 campaign in South Dakota helping Sen. Tim Johnson (D) beat back a serious challenge from then Rep. John Thune (R). That race won, Dacey hopped a plane to Louisiana in the middle of election night 2002 to run the field operation for Sen. Mary Landrieu's (D) December runoff race.

Tired yet?

Though she only "knew of" Kerry as he began preparations for a presidential bid, Dacey signed on as one of his regional political directors, responsible for building organizations in 20 states. "My dad really liked him early on," she explained.

She rode the Kerry wave (frontrunner, flop, frontrunner) through his victory in the Iowa caucuses, and then went to Washington State to oversee Kerry's political operation in advance of that state's caucus, which he won easily.

In April 2004 Dacey was named traveling political director -- at Kerry's side through the grueling general election campaign in which he came up 118,000 Ohio votes short of the White House.

Although she spent just four nights in her own bed between April and November 2004, Dacey relished the experience. She tells of riding in a small van around Ohio with retired Ohio Sen. -- and astronaut -- John Glenn as though it was a cherished memory from childhood. "I was given an opportunity that very few people get," she said. "I traveled across the country but happened to do it with the presidential nominee."

While many Kerry staffers not only left the campaign after his defeat but panned the candidate's public and private performance in the media, Dacey soldiered on -- unapologetically loyal to the man she had spent the past seven months with every day.

After his defeat, Kerry pledged to stay active in Democratic politics and he has done so through his re-formed political action committee -- Keeping America's Promise.

So far in the 2006 cycle, KAP has donated $5.1 million to 137 candidates and 30 party committees, figures that make it one of the largest givers of campaign cash among Democratic elected officials. "I am really proud of the numbers," said Dacey. "I knew we had a lot of support and people who wanted to be helpful."

Dacey is charged with deciding the political events Kerry should and shouldn't do, keeping up with the key House, Senate and gubernatorial races on the ballot this fall and also staying in touch with the activist base the Massachusetts Senator built in 2004.

Kerry has made little secret that he is actively considering another presidential run in 2008, a prospect that leaves many within the Democratic establishment cold. Not surprisingly, Dacey is a notable exception. "The country will be looking for someone who can make us safe, clean up the mess in Iraq, and restore our place in the world," says Dacey. "That's Kerry." And, should Kerry run, Dacey will be standing right beside him. "I plan on helping the Senator as long as he wants me to be involved," she said.

For more on Kerry's 2008 prospects, read The Fix's cases for and against a second national bid by the Massachusetts Senator.

By Chris Cillizza  |  August 21, 2006; 3:45 PM ET
Categories:  Insider Interview  
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