Harris sidestepped questions in regards to the workers turnover and potential for a reset when requested about it by POLITICO, and her office declined to remark for this story. But behind the scenes, advisers have spent weeks researching attainable replacements for vital posts and feeling out others who handed on roles within the office earlier this year, to see if they might be extra amenable to becoming a member of in a second spherical.
Four staffers have introduced their departures from the vice chairman’s office in latest weeks. They embrace the excessive-profile exit by one in every of Harris’ closest aides, Symone Sanders, who serves as senior adviser and chief spokesperson, in addition to Ashley Etienne, the office’s communications director. Officials keep these departures had been lengthy-deliberate and never proof of the turmoil. But they’re a part of a wave that might develop bigger as workers contained in the vice chairman’s office review different alternatives. More aides in Harris’ office have expressed curiosity in leaving, based on folks acquainted with these conversations.
Donna Brazile, a veteran Democratic strategist near the White House and vice chairman’s office, pressured that turnover at this stage of presidency isn’t shocking — particularly within the case of Sanders, one of many first folks President Joe Biden employed when he ran for president. But she stated the brand new vacancies give Harris an opportunity to reassess.
“Every opportunity that you get in politics to renew and repurpose is a good opportunity,” Brazile stated in an interview. “In every stage of [Harris’] life, there were people she could bring with her and then there were people that she had to pick up along the way because of the new responsibilities. And I think that this is an opportunity like she’s done with throughout her career to find people who are able to take their seats at the table because guess what? There’s something new on the menu.”
The shakeup amongst Harris’ workers has led to hypothesis about how she and her prime aides have managed the office, in addition to her personal capability as a boss. Aware of the grumbling, prime Harris allies are defending her management abilities, whereas characterizing the withdrawals as a part of the same old burnout that comes from working in a strain-cooker setting. There is concern amongst some confidants that if she isn’t extra centrally concerned in hiring at her office, a irritating first year might change into a extra painful second one.
“If she’s not allowed to select her own people or have a lot of say in picking her own people, she’s f—ed,” a longtime Harris confidant advised POLITICO, arguing she wants loyalists who additionally keep help and belief inside Biden’s interior circle.
The Biden administration over the summer season had already introduced in a pair of fixers — Lorraine Voles and Adam Frankel — to evaluate the vice chairman’s operation and institute adjustments. They have shared little about any inner adjustments, however an individual near Harris described Voles as “a calming influence” who has streamlined bottlenecks.
The vice chairman’s workforce declined to touch upon what particularly has modified since Voles and Frankel, a former Barack Obama speechwriter, joined the office, however officers acknowledged they had been dealing with lengthy-time period planning and organizational improvement.
Democratic strategists and other people intently aligned with each Harris and Biden view the pending reshaping of the office as an vital second for the White House, one the place they’ll plot out higher deploy a historic determine within the vice chairman position.
And with the departures of Sanders and Etienne, who’re each Black, there’s additionally been renewed focus amongst
Democrats to proceed to push for extra variety in main jobs and throughout the Biden administration transferring ahead.
Harris’ allies additionally view it as a chance for her to embrace a extra energetic position in shaping her protection. Among them, there’s a rising sense of frustration over what’s seen as over-torqued critiques that feed a doomsday evaluation of her standing and political future.
“There are definitely some improvements that are widely acknowledged that need to be made in that office. And those improvements are acknowledged by the people in her office and they are acknowledged by the people in the White House,” stated a Democratic strategist with ties to Bidenworld.
The strategist added the though there’s numerous “talented people in the office,” Harris is now introduced with a chance to take classes discovered from the primary year and “structure the office in a way that meets the needs and goals of what she’s trying to accomplish and what she is accomplishing for the administration.”
Karen Finney, a Democratic strategist who has labored on campaigns for Hillary Clinton and Stacey Abrams, stated that regardless of the headlines, Harris had executed laudable work on voting rights, meeting with folks not historically heard from round D.C., and by serving to put a “human face” on the president’s sprawling legislative agenda through her journey across the nation.
“Vice President Harris is doing the job of the vice president,” Finney stated. “That is to be the No. 2, to help push and get passed the president’s agenda, to represent the United States around the world and help repair our global alliances; and on the pandemic to get the aid package passed and travel the country urging Americans to get vaccinated.”
Harris has lengthy had bother discovering her early footing in places of work to which she’d simply been elected, even these the place she had appreciable expertise. In the span of a decade — 2011 to 2021 — she rose from lawyer basic of California to U.S. senator to vice chairman.
With the exception of her 4 years within the U.S. Senate, the training curve has led to early missteps and tough patches in each job she’s held. But she’s all the time recovered, partly by excelling within the work, aides famous. “And that recovery is a result of people focusing on what she is doing and not on what people are saying,” one longtime former Harris aide stated.
Harris has few advisers round her with lengthy-standing personal relationships. And all through her career in elected office, there have been workers exoduses. However, it wasn’t till her tailspin within the 2020 presidential marketing campaign that they started to creep into the precise information protection of her. Some concern that if she doesn’t create some stability throughout the prime ranks of her office with the mandatory assist of Biden’s workforce, that kind of protection will come to outline her.
“The ceaseless staff turnover will continue unless the White House takes charge and provides stewardship for the vice president’s office,” stated Gil Duran, a former prime Harris aide in California who’s now the opinion editor of the San Francisco Examiner. “The stakes for President Biden and the nation are high, and so this narrative of division and dysfunction must be swiftly put to rest.”
Harris’ press operation is present process probably the most seen retooling. When it was conceived, officers conceded, neither the White House nor Harris’ office was ready for the extent of scrutiny on the vice chairman, each for the historic nature of her position and because the No. 2 to a president many Democrats aren’t satisfied will run once more in 2024.
“Her press corps, her press contingency, is much larger and much more robust than previous vice presidents,” a Democratic strategist aligned with the White House stated. “There’s just a different level of scrutiny and a different level of coverage. That goes back to the original discussion about how the team can construct the office in a way that helps meet those demands of the press corps in this press environment.”
Harris, herself a relative newcomer to Washington, has needed to adapt to the historically understated position of vice chairman. She has been reluctant to forge relationships with members of the information media, and there was little in the best way of proactive pitching of tales on her — magnifying the impression of course of items from mainstream press shops and fierce criticism from proper-wing shops.
“Why is it that if Kamala goes to the bathroom, everybody says ‘she used toilet paper’ or if she goes into the kitchen, everyone says ‘she bought a new pot?’” Brazile stated. “How many people have left the West Wing? How many people have said, ‘I’m only going to do this for six months.’ There’s this insatiable appetite to carry every conversation that Kamala is having into the press but it’s never one that says, actually, what’s going on.”