Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker bolstered his political team on Wednesday, hiring a senior adviser to lead his efforts in the early primary state of New Hampshire and adding advisers to help him with foreign policy and domestic issues.
The staff additions come as the second-term Republican governor continues to move closer to a likely 2016 presidential run.
Walker's political fundraising committee confirmed Wednesday that Andy Leach, who has worked on New Hampshire campaigns since 1992, will be his top adviser in the state. Day-to-day-operations will be handled there by Michael Bir, who led programs for the Republican National Committee in Ohio in 2010 and 2012.
Walker also hired Mike Gallagher, a staff member on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, to advise on international issues and Kristin Jackson, who works for a Washington-based public relations and communications firm, to assist him on domestic policies.
Walker has also hired key staff in Iowa, home to the nation's first presidential caucuses.
The hiring of well-known advisers in New Hampshire, home of the first primary votes next year, comes a month before Walker makes his first trip to the state, where he'll be the featured speaker at an event organized by the state Republican Party on March 14.
Leach served as the New Hampshire Republican Party's executive director in the 2006 and 2010 election cycles. He also worked for New Hampshire Sen. Kelly Ayotte and former Sen. John E. Sununu, and on Scott Brown's Senate campaign in New Hampshire in 2014. Leach left Ayotte's office in January to start a political consulting firm.
Leach "keeps a low profile but he's very capable," said Fergus Cullen, former chairman of the New Hampshire Republican Party. "You know Andy's doing his job well when you don't see him."
Along with work in Ohio, Bir was political director of the Michigan Republican Party through 2014.
The hires were made by Walker's Our American Revival, the tax-exempt committee formed in January that can raise and spend unlimited amounts of money to help Walker bolster his agenda. It is led by former Republican National Committee political consultant and Wisconsin Republican Party executive director Rick Wiley.
The hiring of a foreign policy adviser comes a week after Walker refused to answer questions related to foreign policy while on a trade mission to London.
Walker has been casting himself as a bold reformer and a Washington outsider, pointing to the nearly $2 billion in tax cuts while governor and citing his law that effectively ended collective bargaining for most public workers in Wisconsin. He now wants to cut $300 million from the University of Wisconsin System, while giving it more autonomy from state laws, to help plug a state budget shortfall that Democrats have cited as evidence of him mismanaging the state's finances.
Associated Press writer Kathleen Ronayne contributed to this report from Concord, New Hampshire.
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