The eyes of Texas are upon Sacramento
Former assistants to California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger are finding themselves much in demand these days -- in Texas.
Walter von Huene, a onetime television director who worked with Schwarzenegger on some of his final films and then became a trusted aide when the actor transitioned into politics, has resurfaced as the speech coach for a likely contender for the Texas governorship in 2010.
Meanwhile, two other ex-Schwarzenegger associates have linked up with famed cyclist Lance Armstrong, who, it is speculated, may be laying the groundwork for a political run of some sort and at some point in the Lone Star State.
First, about Von Huene. ...
When he left the payroll of the Schwarzenegger administration in May, our then-colleague Robert Salladay blogged that he was headed back to a Hollywood career. But apparently Von Huene -- who, as Salladay noted, not only helped Schwarzenegger with his sometimes fractured English but served as the governor's regular chess partner -- has discovered the seduction of being close to those in power.
A Houston Chronicle story earlier this week reported that Von Huene has been hired to help Texas Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst improve his public speaking skills.
This new job, of course, doesn't quite involve the challenges Von Huene faced with Schwarzenegger and his still-thick Austrian accent. Instead, Von Huene's work with Dewhurst "has been focused on speech-making and delivery," according to the Texan's director of communications, Mike Wintemute (a transplanted Californian who a few years back was appointed to a mid-level state government job by Schwarzenegger).
Dewhurst, a Republican, was elected lieutenant governor in 2002, was easily reelected last November and appears to be gearing up for a run at the top job (why else hire Von Huene?).
Today, however, the buzz in Texas political circles is about Armstrong, the seven-time winner of the the Tour de France. The Dallas Morning News reports that in the wake of his success in spearheading to passage state cancer research bonds earlier this month, many of his fellow Texans are wondering if Armstrong himself could be on the ballot down the road.
He's got himself a spokeswoman, Katherine McLane, who used to serve the same function for Schwarzenegger. She was appropriately coy in commenting for the Dallas newspaper story, saying, "For the coming year, [Armstrong's] focus is on making cancer a national priority and a front-burner topic in the presidential election. What happens after that, who can say?"
The story also notes that Jeff Danzinger, who had been part of Schwarzenegger's communications staff, "penned Mr. Armstrong's election night remarks, a polished 10-minute speech."
Working for Armstrong is not without its challenges, from a public-relations standpoint. Even as he was stumping for the cancer research bonds, he made news by getting cozy with Ashley Olsen, one of the acting twins (part of the reason for the attention -- he's 36, she's 21).
-- Don Frederick