In a shake-up two months before Election Day, Robert Grey has hired a campaign manager, Lisa McMurray Fulton, shortly after two key advisers left the lawyer's mayoral campaign early this week.
Abbi Easter and Rhett Walker, long-time Richmond-area political operatives, stepped down on Monday, citing disagreements over the direction of Grey's campaign.
“Abbi and I have a fundamental difference about the direction and strategy of the campaign and so we're no longer with it,” Walker says.
Fulton managed Gov. Tim Kaine's race for lieutenant governor in 2001 and worked as his chief of staff in that office until 2003. In 2000, she managed Jody Wagner's unsuccessful bid for a Virginia Beach congressional seat.
Since leaving Richmond Fulton has been living in Maryland. She says she plans to work in Richmond during the campaign. Despite her out-of-town status, Fulton says city voters have had many positive experiences with the candidate.
“This is not an introduction of Robert Grey to the community,” she says. “It's his vision for moving Richmond forward.”
Sources close to the campaign say hiring Fulton is a step in the right direction. To date, these sources say, Grey has largely relied on an untraditional, unpaid network of friends, associates and talent from outside the city. That roster includes Detroit political insider Beth DunCombe, the Martin Agency's Joe Slay and former Virginia Attorney General Tony Troy.
Michael Brown, a third Grey adviser and nephew of Mayor L. Douglas Wilder, did not return calls seeking comment. It's unclear as of press time whether Brown is part of the campaign rift.
The changes coincide with the return of recent internal polling results, sources say, though they caution that the departures are a mutual parting of ways and not precipitated by poll results or a specific event.