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Glassman drives away top campaign staff

Three top staffers have left Rodney Glassman’s U.S. Senate campaign during the past month and a half, and sources close to the campaign said they were driven away by broken financial promises and discontent with Glassman’s management style.

In mid-July, political director Junelle Cavero left the Democratic Senate hopeful’s campaign, followed by field director Kristin Gwinn in early August and communications director Dawn Teo on Aug. 15. All three said they left to pursue other opportunities, but would not discuss the circumstances of their departures.

But sources close to the campaign said the exodus is symptomatic of problems that have riddled the campaign for months, according to a story in the Yellow Sheet, a sister publication of the Arizona Capitol Times.

“There definitely has been ongoing chaos,” said one source, who spoke on the condition on anonymity. “I think if there were more campaign jobs available there would be a lot more people leaving.”

Glassman, a former Tucson City Council member, marketed himself as a candidate who would self-fund his campaign to the tune of millions, they said, but has put only $500,000 of his own money into the campaign, half of which he is saving for the general election. Some staffers were paid less than promised, and lackluster fundraising led Glassman to talk openly about possibly cutting staff.

“It was basically a publicity stunt,” one source said about the $500,000 Glassman’s family put into his campaign.

Equally problematic, the sources said, is Glassman’s management style. They said he excessively micromanages the campaign, ignores top staffers’ suggestions in favor of their subordinates or friends from outside the campaign, and is needlessly demeaning to staffers he feels aren’t following instructions.

“Rodney put together a staff of people with national campaign experience and they’re pretty good at what they do. He’s never been involved in a campaign of this size and does not know what he’s doing,” a source said. “He has a tendency to want to call you out on things that he perceives as mistakes in front of outsiders or your subordinates in hope that it will shame you into doing the right thing. It’s an odd management style.”

Tensions reached a breaking point in late July, sources said, when staffers gave Glassman an ultimatum. They wanted him to meet a list of demands that included an end to micromanagement, better pay, job guarantees and an end to Glassman’s ban on the campaign doing opposition research on its own candidate. A source said Glassman raised several staffers’ pay, but it did little to alleviate discontent within the campaign.

One source said staff has been frustrated by an inability to respond to attacks against Glassman, such as allegations that he made comments disparaging a gay colleague on the Tucson City Council. Glassman won’t let his campaign do opposition research against him – a common practice in political campaigns that allows them to anticipate attacks – which has made it exceptionally difficult to respond to allegations, sources said.

Glassman and campaign spokeswoman Tina May did not return several messages seeking comment, though in an interview with the Phoenix New Times, May denied allegations that Glassman publicly berated staff or that he had made unfulfilled promises about self-funding. May told the Arizona Capitol Times after Teo left the campaign that the communications director and her husband had left to tend to their home businesses, and that her departure was not the result of any disagreements with the campaign.

“People come and go all the time,” May said. “It’s not that big a deal.”

The biggest obstacle to Glassman’s fundraising has been his father, a source said, who controls the family purse strings but has been unwilling to put more money into the campaign. Numerous party insiders urged him to run for secretary of state instead of trying to take on Sen. John McCain, sources said, but Glassman’s father would only put up the money for a Senate campaign.

“Rodney’s really not allowed to spend money without his dad’s permission,” a source said.

Glassman’s father also riled higher-ups at the Arizona Democratic Party by backing out on a promise to make a seven-figure contribution to the party’s coffers, the sources said. Party insiders were so upset that they recruited one of his primary opponents, though the source would not say which of his three rivals they sought out. Former Arizona Department of Health Director Cathy Eden, former Phoenix New Times reporter John Dougherty and labor leader Randy Parraz are challenging Glassman in the Aug. 24 Democratic primary.

Democratic Party insiders tried earlier in the year to recruit another candidate into the race, but Southern Arizona businesswoman Nan Stockholm Walden announced in April that she wouldn’t run.

Some Democrats were concerned at the time that Glassman, who had not yet become an official candidate for the Senate and had put his campaign on hold while the City Council dealt with Tucson’s budget crisis, was not taking the race seriously enough and would ultimately be in a weak position for the general election.

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