Former Newsom chief of staff to join San Francisco firm, ending Biden job speculation

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OAKLAND — Ann O’Leary, a former top Hillary Clinton aide and most recently chief of staff to California Gov. Gavin Newsom, said Monday that she will become a partner in a San Francisco law firm, ending speculation that she might be nominated as director of the Office of Management and Budget.

The White House has not indicated yet whom President Joe Biden will nominate for OMB more than two weeks after withdrawing the selection of Neera Tanden after controversy over her past tweets criticizing Republicans. O’Leary was said to be a possible replacement and was interested in the job, but Shalanda Young has become the frontrunner as the deputy director nominee, with support from the top three Democratic leaders of the House and the Congressional Black Caucus.

O’Leary said Monday on her blog that she has joined Jenner & Block as a partner in the firm’s new San Francisco office. She will co-chair the government controversies and public policy litigation practice. O’Leary officially left her job as Newsom chief of staff in January after serving in the governor’s office for the first two years of his tenure, the latter part of which saw a recall drive accelerate toward almost certain qualification.

She also has joined The Century Foundation, a liberal think tank, as a nonresident fellow focusing on the economy and women’s economic justice, the group announced Monday. And she will teach a Stanford Law School course on America’s safety net as viewed through the Covid-19 crisis.

In the blog post, O’Leary acknowledged the buzz about her possible role in the Biden administration.

"While it is true that public service is in my veins," she wrote, "and I would love to serve my country again at the federal level, where I have landed is exactly where I should be right now."

"I have deep personal and professional respect for President Biden, Vice President Harris and White House Chief of Staff Ron Klain who have built a Cabinet and a Senior White House team that is incredibly diverse and is filled with people who have strong expertise in federal government service to tackle the extraordinary challenges our country is facing," she added.

POLITICO was first to report on O’Leary’s departure from Newsom’s office in December, and she subsequently announced the move later that month.

O’Leary took charge of Newsom’s operations in November 2018 during his gubernatorial transition. She arrived with deep policy experience, much of it in Washington, where she worked many years for Clinton. She came in with the reputation as a coalition builder and an impassioned advocate for early education and working families.

She led Newsom’s office through his successful early days of the pandemic when California won praise for swift stay-at-home orders and having some of the lowest infection rates in the country. But the state — and Newsom — struggled later in the year with a summer surge and then its deadliest stretch in December and January.

That coincided with growing frustration with California school closures and shutdowns of businesses and indoor religious services. An initially sluggish recall effort hit warp speed during the last two months of her time in Newsom’s office, en route to almost certain qualification for an election later this year. O’Leary was replaced in part by state Capitol veteran Jim DeBoo, who had deeper Sacramento connections and was seen as more of a political and communications strategist than O’Leary.

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