GOVERNOR GOES ON PR OFFENSE FOR ELECTIONS
Covering the political scene from the halls of the Capitol, reporter Austin Baird knows where all the bodies are buried.
Now, he’s the newest press secretary for Gov. Bill Walker, as the governor heads into his busiest year yet, with a campaign for political survival and a gasline project with some very specific drop-dead dates.
Since 2012, Baird has been KTUU’s political reporter, doing multiple live interviews from the Capitol each day during session.
Baird worked on the state government desk for the Charlotte Observer and Raleigh News & Observer; and wrote the political blog, Under the Dome. He also worked for the Associated Press.
Walker’s former press secretary Katie Marquette left to become communication director for the Department of Health and Social Services. Amanda Moser, a recent hire in the Governor’s Office, has been filling in.
One of his most challenging jobs will be to explain to Alaskans why the governor needs an income tax during a time when he is adding to the executive branch. Baird will make $110,000 a year, likely twice what he made as a reporter.
Walker also hired a new “director of public engagement.” David Lienemann, Joe Biden’s former official photographer. He is married to the aide to Sen. Tom Begich.
Linemann’s web site says he spent eight years documenting Biden’s visits to 47 states and 64 countries, including seven trips to Iraq and Afghanistan.
“In addition to regularly interfacing with Cabinet officials, Members of Congress, and foreign dignitaries, I was privy to tense budget negotiations, the 2012 presidential campaign and more. However the most meaningful moments by far were the private ones; the Vice President and Dr. Biden visiting with families of the victims on the first anniversary of the Boston Marathon bombing, traveling with Dr. Biden to the Dadaab refugee camp on the Somali border, and visits to Walter Reed to visit wounded warriors and their families on Christmas Day,” he writes.
“Before coming to the White House I covered the 2008 presidential campaign for clients including the New York Times, Chicago Tribune, Associated Press, and Getty Images among others. Prior to the campaign, I interned at newspapers in New Mexico, Iowa, and Pennsylvania. I graduated from Cornell College with a BA in Economics and Business in 2005.”
Walker has made multiple hires this past year, including bringing on John-Henry Heckendorn to essentially manage his re-election campaign at the State’s expense. Heckendorn managed the campaign of Rep. Dean Westlake, now accused of harassment of women in the Capitol.