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Clinton Super PAC Executive Director Exits Amid Shake-Up

Buffy Wicks, the head of Priorities USA, is in talks with the Clinton campaign about a senior role. She leaves the super PAC as Guy Cecil comes in.

Posted on May 20, 2015, at 6:00 a.m. ET

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Buffy Wicks, a leading Democratic operative and former senior aide to Barack Obama, will leave her post as executive director of Priorities USA Action, the super PAC working to raise millions in support of Hillary Clinton's campaign.

Wicks, now in the process of arranging her exit from Priorities, is expected to stay inside the larger Clinton operation, three sources familiar with the move said.

She is in discussion with Clinton aides about a senior role on the "coordinated side" — which could include a position inside the campaign or at the Democratic National Committee, where officials would work closely with Clinton should she become the nominee.

A Clinton aide confirmed the talks on Tuesday evening.

"We are recruiting Buffy for a senior-level role on the coordinated side of the campaign," the Clinton official said.

The departure comes about three weeks after the news that Guy Cecil, the political director on Clinton's last campaign, would join the super PAC in a senior role.

At the time, many Democrats viewed the move as a means to minimize another Priorities official, Jim Messina, the former Obama campaign manager. Messina was installed as the super PAC's co-chair, but has never been fully embraced by the longstanding circle of aides and advisers around Clinton.

It was never clear, though, what Cecil's entry would mean for Wicks.

Wicks, a widely respected and well-liked figure in the party, served as the national director of get-out-the-vote efforts on Obama's reelection campaign.

She is close with senior members of the Clinton team, including the campaign manager, Robby Mook. The two met working for Howard Dean in 2004 — an operation that famously trained much of its field staff in organizing techniques from the labor and protest movements of the '60s and '70s. Wicks and Mook both emerged from that race as part of an ascendant new class of field organizers.

Wicks was largely new to fundraising when she joined Priorities last January.

She took the helm along with Messina and his co-chair, former Michigan governor Jennifer Granholm, amid a relaunch by the pro-Obama super PAC into a paid-media effort backing a Clinton bid in 2016. The leadership team was formulated as a meld of the Obama and Clinton worlds ahead of the next election.

Priorities was inactive throughout the 2014 midterms. After the election, the super PAC struggled to solicit pledges and outline a clear fundraising strategy. With the campaign now underway, Priorities has had more success — but the group spent much of early 2015 dealing with negative stories over fundraising and leadership.

Originally, in late 2013, existing Priorities officials hoped that John Podesta, now the Clinton campaign chairman, would join the PAC as a co-chair. But Podesta, who served as a senior official in Bill Clinton's administration, took a job at the White House instead. Cecil, most recently the head of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, comes to the PAC as an ally of Podesta and Bill Clinton. (He was also reportedly considered as a choice for campaign manager.)

Cecil also used to work at Dewey Square Group, the consulting firm whose officials have informally advised the campaign and outside efforts leading up to it.

A Dewey Square founding partner, Charlie Baker, recently joined the Clinton campaign as chief administrative officer. His role, in part, was described by two sources as a liaison of sorts between the campaign and outside officials.

With Wicks's departure, it's likely that Cecil will take the lead role at Priorities — though his position has not been acknowledged or outlined by the PAC. Cecil's move to Priorities was first reported by the Washington Post.

Neither Wicks nor a spokesman for Priorities returned a request for comment.