Jim Duffy, a partner at Putnam Partners, got his first political job the old-fashioned way: his brother-in-law asked his boss, the mayor, to hire him. At 23, Duffy understood enough about politics to repay the favor to both his brother-in-law and the mayor. He started nailing up signs, walking blocks, making phone calls, running campaigns and finally writing and producing media. There’s no job in a campaign he hasn’t done.
In 2018 Duffy worked on two very difficult races — one a gubernatorial race in Connecticut where a very unpopular incumbent Democratic governor made retention of the governorship an iffy proposition, and secondly, a County Executive in Montgomery County, Maryland (a huge suburban County in the Washington, D.C. metro area). Both races were ultimately won — in very Blue Connecticut, a mere three points win for Ned Lamont, and in Montgomery County, where a scrambled Democratic primary ended up favoring his candidate, Marc Elrich, by a scant eighty votes. In both races, there was little room for strategic errors, and none were made. Duffy also worked on Senator Ben Cardin’s successful re-election campaign.
Over 40 years of working in campaigns has left Duffy with a deep appreciation of the voting public. Voters may not follow the day-to-day give and take of a campaign, but over the course of a political cycle they will determine which candidate is on their side, who cares about the issues that affect their lives and ultimately who they trust to keep their word. Political communication is a delicate balance of timing, substance and style. Make a mistake on any one of these elements, and the campaign is in trouble.
A message master, Duffy helps campaign staffs cling to their campaign themes like snapping turtles. His understanding of message in paid media, scheduling, free press, mail and telephones makes him a valuable participant in a conference call or at the steering committee table.
He has experience with advertising in a corporate environment as well. Duffy spent eight years working for AT&T as both a strategist and a media producer, where he learned that when corporations have political problems, it is imperative that they use any and all political communication tools.
Duffy also worked for the Texas Rangers on their campaign to pass a sales tax in Arlington, TX, which enabled the team to build a new baseball stadium. He then worked with the Rangers on a campaign to improve their image. Dallas-Fort Worth was primarily a football community, but research showed that public opinion moved favorably toward the Rangers when residents learned that Texas Rangers players donated both their time and money to community projects like the Little League and girls’ softball leagues.
As a lead strategist and ad-maker for the sugar industry, Duffy played a role in their fight against The Central America Free Trade Agreement. He was also intimately involved with Pepco Holdings’ image campaign and the Pepco Holdings-Exelon merger campaign.
Duffy graduated from Tulane University, earned a Master’s degree from the University of New Orleans and spent two years at the Johns Hopkins University working on a Ph.D. But the academic life proved a little slow for Duffy (plus he could never discipline himself to read any other history but southern political history, which did not endear him to his professors). He left Hopkins and headed for New Orleans, where, with a little inside help, he joined the staff of Mayor Moon Landrieu in 1973.
In 1985, he joined the firm of Raymond D. Strother, Ltd. and became a partner in Strother Duffy Strother in 1991. Duffy was a partner at Murphy Putnam Media from 2009 to 2010, and joined Putnam Partners after the 2010 elections.
Jim Duffy is married and lives in Maryland and in Rappahannock County, Virginia — where peace and quiet prevail in abundance.