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


Ann O’Leary speaks at an event. | Photo courtesy of the U.S. Department of Labor

OAKLAND – Ann O’Leary, a former top advisor to Hillary Clinton and most recently chief of staff to California Governor Gavin Newsom, said Monday that she will be partnering with a law firm in San Francisco, ending speculation that she will be nominated as director could be the Office for Administration and Budget.

The White House has yet to announce who President Joe Biden will nominate for OMB more than two weeks after retiring the selection of Neera Tanden after controversy over her previous tweets criticizing Republicans. O’Leary is believed to have been a possible replacement and was interested in the job, but Shalanda Young, with the support of the House’s three top Democratic leaders and the Congressional Black Caucus, has emerged as the front runner for assistant director.

O’Leary said Monday on her blog for joining Jenner & Block as a partner in the company’s new San Francisco office. She will jointly lead government controversies and public order litigation. O’Leary officially resigned as Newsom’s chief of staff in January after serving in the governor’s office for the first two years of his tenure. In the last part, a recall accelerated towards an almost certain qualification.

She has also joined the Century Foundation, a liberal think tank, as a non-resident scholar that focuses on the economy and economic justice of women, the group said Monday. And she’ll be teaching a Stanford Law School course on America’s safety net in view of the Covid-19 crisis.

In the blog post, O’Leary recognized the enthusiasm for her potential role in the Biden administration.

“Public service is in my veins,” she wrote, “and I would love to return to serving my country at the federal level, where I ended up, right where I should be now.”

“I have great personal and professional respect for President Biden, Vice President Harris and White House Chief of Staff Ron Klain for building a cabinet and senior White House team that is incredibly diverse and filled with people who are beyond strong Expertise in the federal government has service to address the extraordinary challenges our country faces, “she added.

POLITICO first reported on O’Leary’s departure from Newsom’s office in December and announced the move later that month.

O’Leary took over the business of Newsom in November 2018 during his gubernatorial transition. She arrived with profound political experience, much of it in Washington, where she worked for Clinton for many years. She had a reputation as a coalition builder and a passionate advocate of early education and working families.

She guided Newsom’s office through its successful beginnings in the pandemic, when California was lauded for quick home orders and some of the lowest infection rates in the country. But the state – and Newsom – struggled with a summer spike later in the year, and then its deadliest stretch in December and January.

This coincided with growing frustration with shutdowns and closings of businesses and religious services in California. An initially sluggish recall hit warp speed in the last two months of her time at Newsom’s office, on the way to near-certain qualifying for an election later that year. O’Leary was partially replaced by State Capitol veteran Jim DeBoo, who had deeper Sacramento connections and was viewed as a political and communicative strategist rather than O’Leary.

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