Corbett names Lawson as new communications director

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HARRISBURG -- Gov. Tom Corbett on Wednesday named to a prominent post a second veteran of Gov. Tom Ridge's 1998 re-election campaign, another in a spate of staff changes within the administration.

The governor said in a statement that Lynn Lawson, a public affairs executive who served as press secretary on Mr. Ridge's re-election bid, will be his communications director, a post filled for years by spokesman Kevin Harley.

In July, Mr. Corbett replaced his chief of staff, Stephen Aichele, with Leslie Gromis Baker, whose career in Republican politics included managing the Ridge re-election.

The naming of a new communications director came one day after Mr. Corbett announced that Katie True, a Republican former state representative from Lancaster, will be his new secretary of legislative affairs.

The staffing changes began after a legislative season in which Mr. Corbett pressed without success for lawmakers to pass three major proposals: the privatization of the state liquor system, a recasting of public employee pensions and the establishment of new funding for transportation infrastructure.

At the same time, the governor is inching closer to the 2014 election without turning around his low ratings in public opinion polls.

"What motivates this is the fact that the Corbett agenda is stuck, and, two, his low job performance numbers threaten his re-election," said Terry Madonna, a professor and pollster at Franklin & Marshall College. "If he were doing well, you think you would have all these shake-ups? Why would you need them?"

Mr. Madonna said the governor has reached back to find aides who have demonstrated their skills and political sensibilities in a previous Republican administration.

Ms. Lawson, who lives in Luzerne County, said she will begin work as communications director next week. Where Mr. Harley has served as both communications director and press secretary for the governor, the administration intends to hire someone else to serve in the second role, Mr. Harley said.

The governor's office announced Monday that Mr. Harley will leave for a job at a Harrisburg public relations firm, though Mr. Harley later said he will still play a role in Mr. Corbett's re-election campaign.

Ms. Lawson worked in the Ridge administration from 1995 to 1997 as press secretary for the state Department of Community and Economic Development. She will join the Corbett administration from a post as managing director at the public affairs firm DCI Group, the governor's office said. She previously was a director of public affairs for the communications firm Burson-Marsteller.

Ms. Lawson also worked in the White House under President George H.W. Bush, in a role that included outreach to elected officials.

breaking - state

Karen Langley: klangley@post-gazette.com or 717-787-2141. First Published August 14, 2013 1:30 PM


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