New York Political Consultant Moves West for New Horizons

Stefan Friedman  
National Journal
Aug. 14, 2013, 12:24 p.m.

For someone who has spent his en­tire life in one city, Stefan Fried­man has a re­mark­ably broad ar­ray of in­terests and pas­sions. That’s be­cause the city he lived in was New York.

The proud “born, bred, and raised” New York­er is an ad­mit­ted sports nut but en­joys chew­ing the fat about Amer­ic­an mi­grat­ory tend­en­cies, urb­an de­vel­op­ment in the South­w­est, and De­troit’s re­cent bank­ruptcy, which he calls “noth­ing short of ter­ri­fy­ing.”

So per­haps it’s a nat­ur­al move that after 38 years of New York liv­ing, Fried­man, who has been work­ing in the world of polit­ic­al con­sult­ing for SK­DKnick­er­bock­er since 2006, de­cided to pack up and re­lo­cate to Los Angeles. He began a new gig there last week as a man­aging dir­ect­or at Mer­cury, a na­tion­al pub­lic strategies firm, where he hopes his work will be as ec­lect­ic as his in­terests.

“The abil­ity to do a little bit of everything was a big draw.” Fried­man said. “The vari­ety of cli­en­tele is what keeps me on my toes and keeps me fo­cused.”

Though Fried­man, whose cli­ents in­clude former CNN an­chor Camp­bell Brown and Thor Equit­ies, says his move is a life­style and per­son­al de­cision — he speaks fondly of the West Coast’s more re­laxed cul­ture, and his wife, Amy, has fam­ily ties in Cali­for­nia — the chance to tread in­to un­fa­mil­i­ar ter­rit­ory sweetened the pot. Dur­ing his in­ter­view with Na­tion­al Journ­al Daily, he spoke of a rest­less am­bi­tion already stir­ring to dive in­to con­sult­ing pro­jects for the tech­no­logy and en­ter­tain­ment in­dus­tries.

“There are a lot of good pub­li­cists in this town, no doubt about it,” Fried­man said. But “there is a need for good strategy, good stra­tegic ad­vice, macro-think­ing.”

Fried­man began his ca­reer in me­dia as a copy­boy at the New York Post when he was just 19 after drop­ping out of col­lege. He quickly worked his way up the ranks in an eight-year ca­reer that in­cluded writ­ing his own polit­ic­al column and trav­el­ing with John Kerry’s pres­id­en­tial cam­paign in 2004, an ex­per­i­ence he said “was about as good a life as I could ima­gine.”

Fried­man, who iden­ti­fies as a “pro-busi­ness” Demo­crat and whose fath­er-in-law, Dan Glick­man, served as Ag­ri­cul­ture sec­ret­ary in the Clin­ton ad­min­is­tra­tion, switched to what he cheekily called “the dark side” of pub­lic re­la­tions when he began work­ing for polit­ic­al strategies firm SK­DKnick­er­bock­er. His not­able cam­paigns in­clude work for New York­ers United for Mar­riage to leg­al­ize gay mar­riage, May­or Mi­chael Bloomberg’s In­de­pend­ence USA polit­ic­al ac­tion com­mit­tee push­ing for tight­er gun con­trol na­tion­ally, and a suc­cess­ful three-month me­dia blitz ad­voc­at­ing rais­ing the cap on charter schools in the state.

“The cam­paign to leg­al­ize mar­riage in New York is something I’ll be proud of un­til the day I’m gone,” said Fried­man, who knows New York’s polit­ic­al dog­fights will con­tin­ue without him around. But he plans to be fly­ing back to his old stomp­ing grounds about once a month and will stay in tune with the is­sues there, adding, “I am bi­coastal in every sense of the word.”

Fried­man is en­joy­ing the good weath­er and vibes of Cali­for­nia liv­ing with his wife and two small chil­dren, Lucy and Leo. And though he is eager to try his hand at new pro­jects, his polit­ic­al pas­sions un­doubtedly flew west with him.

“I hope to al­ways work in policy and polit­ics,” he said. “I think for me, just do­ing pub­lic af­fairs for six or sev­en years, I was eager to branch out from there.”¦ You get to a point where you turn the corner and there’s something really fa­mil­i­ar and com­fort­ing about that, but there’s also the sense that you only live once.”

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