Inside Interview: Wesley Donehue

When it comes to looking inside state government to see who’s who and what’s what, it never hurts to look at the power behind the throne. If the Governor is a King, the cabinet officials Princes, and the Legislature feudal Lords and Barons, then one could argue that the knights of the kingdom would be the political operatives.

On that list of knights would be Lowcountry native Wesley Donehue.

Wesley grew up in Goose Creek, and went to USC. Currently, he is employed with First Tuesday Strategies (formerly known as TTS), where he serves as Vice President. Last year he won all 5 State House races for which he was senior strategist including Bill Cotty (which we covered here in the Blogland), Keith Kelly’s out-right win in a 3-way primary in Spartanburg County, and Mick Mulvaney – the only GOP legislative pick-up in the last election cycle. Wesley also just picked up a seat for the GOP in the State Senate as senior strategist for Shane Massey’s campaign, giving him credit for both of the GOP's two legislative gains since 2004.

Last year Wesley opened South Carolina’s only political Internet firm – Under The Power Lines. He serves as a web consultant to Senator Jim DeMint, Representatives Nathan Ballentine and Thad Viers, and Senators Shane Massey and Ray Cleary. His wife, Elizabeth, has another specialty in the political business as a successful fundraiser (www.donehueagency.com).

If political operatives are the “knights of the kingdom”, Wesley has never been a knight who shied away from a nasty fight. Just this year he made national news by creating a website attacking Senator Fred Thompson (and the Blogland stuck up for him, and got a few barbs from those who couldn’t take a joke).

But enough of our yakking - let’s see what Wesley Donehue has to say …

Q - How did you end up in political consulting?

First off, I think the term “political consultant” is WAY overused by people. There are people in SC and across the nation who have never even worked on a campaign or run a race who call themselves political consultants. It’s BS. I’m 28 and have worked on, run, or advised over 25 campaigns. Am I a consultant? Yeah, I guess so, but it’s still a term I like to save for the elders. Call me an “operative.” I like “strategist” too. It’s a good word.

I first got interested in politics between the 8th and 9th grade. I attended Westview Middle School in Goose Creek and was supposed to move on to Stratford High. The school board had other plans. They split Westview and made a few of us go to Goose Creek High instead and it was pretty obvious which few of us it was – the not so rich kids. I was pissed as hell. How could these people tell me I couldn’t go to school with my best friends? It didn’t make a bit of sense. That was how I got interested in the game.

I went to USC as an engineering major and during my freshman year Senator Bill Mescher asked that I page for him at the State House. There it was…I was hooked. I was then introduced to Rod Shealy who hired me to work on a few campaigns. I changed my major to political science and decided that I was going to be a professional political operative.

After working on a ton of different campaigns, I met Terry Sullivan who hired me to work on the DeMint campaign. Following DeMint’s win I went to run Mike Campbell’s campaign for Lt. Governor. I left in January of 2006 when Warren Tompkins, Terry Sullivan, and Heath Thompson opened TTS and asked me to run the firm.

Q - What are your thoughts about bloggers and other “new media” outlets?

I believe that one day every voter will get the majority of their news from the web. But that’s not going to happen in the next few cycles and it certainly isn’t going to happen today. Regular voters still get their politics from the opinion leaders - those who disseminate information to others, i.e. MSM, activists, elected officials, uber-informed voters...

New media is important because most opinion leaders get a large chunk of their news from the Internet. That in turn is disseminated down to regular voters. It’s called the two-step flow of communication. “The people with most access to media, and having a more literate understanding of media content, explain and diffuse the content to others.” Here’s how it works:

Joe lives in Columbia. He is 63 years olds, votes in every Republican primary, but doesn’t own a computer and wouldn’t know what to do with it if he did.

Bill is a reporter for the Associated Press who reads blogs every day. Today he read an interesting story on The Blogland of Earl Capps, investigated it a little deeper, and wrote his own story. After posting his story on the wire, it was picked up by WIS and The State newspaper.

Joe saw the story on the 11:00 news last night and read about it again in The State this morning. The story was written on a blog, read by a reporter, and disseminated down to the regular voter.


That happens all the time and it’s important that campaigns harness that power. This year we see campaigns hiring entire teams of bloggers and new media experts.

I have had a lot of fun opening South Carolina first Republican Internet strategy firm called “Under The Power Lines Netroots | New Media.” We don’t just build websites. We use the web for votes by creating a web strategy that fits into a campaign’s overall strategy. We then build the tools necessary to complete that strategy. Check us out at politicalnetroots.com.

Q - Last year, we watched a multitude of bizarre political scenes – airplane crashes, herds of cows wearing campaign signs, and the Grim Reaper endorsing candidates for Governor and Comptroller. Does this suggest that the Grim Reaper may be planning to take strong role in our state’s political process, or is this a sign that the end times are near?

The Grim Reaper and the cows are way cooler than Jim Hodges’ Bubba, but not nearly as cool as Jim DeMint’s codgers.

That’s funny. Not until I wrote that did I realize that both Bubba and the codgers were used to whoop up on David Beasely. The Bease just brings out the creativity in people I guess.

Anyway…No, I don't know if the end times are near. That's a question for Mike Huckabee.

As for the cows and the Grim Reaper, they could be plotting something. All they'd need is a blog.

Q - To date, which campaign(s) have been your favorite? Why?

That’s an easy one. By far it was Jim DeMint’s campaign. We had a great team that worked really well together. Terry built the most well oiled machine I’ve ever seen.

Working on a US Senate campaign is stressful and exhausting. Sometimes your nerves are so wound up that you can’t sleep for days. But with Senator DeMint I can look back and know that every single second was well worth it. Jim DeMint is an amazing Senator and every American is lucky to have him serving us in Washington. At times, he seems to be the only one still standing up for our conservative values, and that makes me very proud.

I also enjoyed serving as Deputy Campaign Manager to Mike Bouchard’s US Senate campaign in Michigan. Mike is one of the best men I have ever met and it was very sad to see him lose, but running a campaign in a state so different from South Carolina really expanded my skills. And as Napoleon Dynamite says “girls only want boyfriends who have great skills.” Everyone always asks how I landed a wife so much cooler than me. Guess that’s how.

Q - Since we’re all about great music here in the Blogland, we’ll close by asking what’s your favorite album and/or artist?

When I’m at work I like to hear O.A.R, Guster, and Weezer because it gets my blood flowing. I listen to a lot of rap in the car because it’s the only time people aren’t yelling at me to turn it off. I like a lot of old Wu Tang and Bone Thugs. It’s the Goose Creek in me. I’m not into a lot of the new rap except for Souljah Boy…because I’m learning how to “crank dat.” At home I listen to Bob Marley, Jump, Little Children, Hootie, and Dave. Elizabeth makes me listen to Kenny Chesney a lot.

EDITOR'S NOTE: Stay tuned tomorrow, when we hop to the other side of the political fence for a chat with Phil Bailey with the Senate Democratic Caucus ...

12 Response to "Inside Interview: Wesley Donehue"

  1. Mike Reino 9/1/08 17:57
    Thanks to Wes for explaining how the MSM jacks our posts and copies them for the general public a week later. I thought I was just paranoid..
  2. gotta get out of houston moye 9/1/08 19:54
    we are all paranoid mike.
  3. Anonymous 9/1/08 22:54
    Wes is awesome. He is very intelligent and knowledgeable about the inner workings of SC politics. He is hard working and passionate about his races...plus his wife is beautiful...
  4. Anonymous 10/1/08 08:33
    Wes Donahue wins because he is dirty. He is a prime example of why our nation is going to hell.
  5. Mattheus Mei 10/1/08 09:15
    It’s so bizarre to here of young conservatives usurping aspects of what would traditionally be liberal culture and making it there own. The fact that Wes has interest in old school Rap as well as O.A.R/Weezer/Guster is testament to that fact. It’s hard to shake the image of a conservative as anything other than the likes of Bill Kristol. I suppose it is part of living in a post-modern world. I wonder if Wes would consider himself a Values Voter or South Park Republican, socially liberal yet fiscally conservative – certainly if one had to go by his choice of music alon one would be inclined to choose the latter.
  6. Marion Elmwood 10/1/08 10:57
    Earl thanks for sheading light on very dark spot in the State of South Carolina, kudos to you for trying to make him look good.
  7. Anonymous 11/1/08 00:30
    833, do you have examples of Wes being 'dirty'? I didn't realize that he had so much power. Hail to Donehue, King of Hell in a Handbasket.
  8. Anonymous 11/1/08 10:15
    mattheus, i say south park republican. interesting how that term seems to be catching on.
  9. Anonymous 11/1/08 14:53
    Will you just shut up and go away already?
  10. Anonymous 12/1/08 14:04
    Check out South Park Conservatives by Brian C. Anderson (2005).
  11. Anonymous 12/1/08 14:20
    Anyone that Mescher liked is okay by me!
  12. Anonymous 13/1/08 00:48
    booooooo to him toooooo !!!

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