Apr 16, 2024 - Politics & Policy

Scoop: Commanders draft Senate veteran to finesse stadium deal

Josh Harris commanders hat

Managing partner Josh Harris of the Washington Commanders. Photo: Scott Taetsch/Getty Images

Washington Commanders owner Josh Harris is adding an experienced political player to his D.C. team and giving him a tough assignment: Find a new home for his storied football franchise.

Why it matters: Hiring Kirtan Mehta, a top Senate aide, doesn't mean that Harris has decided to bring the Washington Commanders back to their old stomping grounds at RFK Stadium in D.C.

  • But he's the kind of hire a new NFL owner would make to navigate the politics of moving a team from the Maryland suburbs to a parcel of land that's currently owned by the federal government.

Zoom out: Harris is trying to maximize his options in negotiations with D.C., Maryland and Virginia over the Commanders' next field.

  • Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin is eager to avenge his loss to D.C. after Mayor Muriel Bowser put together a $515 million package to keep the Capitals and Wizards downtown.
  • Maryland Gov. Wes Moore, a Ravens fan, is lobbying to keep the Commanders in Maryland.
  • Mayor Bowser is fighting to bring football back to D.C.

Zoom in: Mehta is leaving his role as chief of staff to Sen. John Hickenlooper (D-Colo.). He's also worked for Gov. Phil Murphy (D-N.J.) and Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.).

  • Mehta's first task: Getting House-passed legislation through the Senate that would allow Bowser to negotiate with Harris on a potential package for a stadium on the banks of the Anacostia River.

What we're watching: Harris, a Chevy Chase native who made billions in private equity, isn't sharing his play sheet for the negotiations.

  • There are arguments to be made for a sprawling suburban campus akin to what the Patriots built, 30 miles outside of Boston.
  • But the team lived its glory years at the former RFK Stadium in D.C., and Harris is a local boy who could seek to recreate that magic on the same hallowed grounds.
  • Blocks away from the Capitol, it would offer the NFL sweeping camera pans of monumental Washington on a Monday night of football.

What's next: "As the NFL franchise representing our nation's capital, the Commander's relationships with federal and local leaders are vital to our organization," said team President Jason Wright.

  • "We're confident that Kirtan will partner powerfully with them to advance community and policy efforts that benefit our fans and the area at large."
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