Meet Kamala Harris’ network of longtime allies and political advisers – Business Insider
This story is available exclusively to Business Insider subscribers.
Become an Insider and start reading now.
- Political stock in Kamala Harris’ orbit soared when Joe Biden picked the California senator as his running mate.
- A former 2020 presidential candidate herself and relative newcomer to Washington, Harris’ political world remains centered in California. It’s where she grew up and spent decades working as a prosecutor, San Francisco’s district attorney, and the state’s attorney general.
- Her inner circle includes her sister, husband, loyal California advisers, Senate aides, and new staffers from Biden’s campaign team.
- If Biden ousts President Trump in November, Harris’ longtime allies will be in prime positions to land jobs in a Biden White House or in the thousands of political posts across federal agencies.
- Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.
Political stock in Kamala Harris’ inner circle soared when Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden picked the California senator as his running mate.
A former 2020 presidential candidate herself and a relative newcomer to Washington, Harris’ political world remains deeply rooted in California. It’s where she grew up and spent decades working as a prosecutor, San Francisco’s district attorney, and the state’s attorney general. Harris won the race to become California’s junior senator in 2016.
Now that she is Biden’s running mate, Harris’ staff includes a combination of her own former aides and members of Biden’s existing network.
If Biden ousts Trump in November, Harris’ allies and former staffers will be in prime positions to land jobs in a Biden White House or in the thousands of political posts across federal agencies. They’d also be hot commodities among lobbyists and a raft of consulting firms and other outside groups hoping to make inroads with the new administration.
That dynamic has always existed when vice-presidential candidates are picked, but it’s even more pronounced on the Biden-Harris ticket, where Biden’s choice was widely viewed as handpicking the Democrats’ standard-bearer beyond 2020.
Here’s Insider’s list of the most important people in Harris’ political orbit. It will be updated periodically to reflect any important changes.
Maya Harris, political adviser
Harris’ younger sister is one of her closest political advisers and fiercest advocates.
Maya Harris was her sister’s 2020 presidential campaign chairwoman, a regular fixture by her side at town halls, state fairs, and stump speeches across the country. Maya Harris’ leadership was also heavily scrutinized in reports of staff turmoil late last year, just before the campaign fizzled. Aides complained at the time that it was unclear who was in charge.
The younger Harris was also involved in the 2016 race as a senior policy adviser to former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign.
“Hillary really trusted her instincts,” John Podesta, Clinton’s campaign chairman, told Talking Points Memo. “Maya would cut through the bulls—, brief her quickly, give her something to think about. Hillary ended up with a great rapport with her.”
Maya Harris was also previously a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress; the vice president of democracy, rights, and justice at the Ford Foundation; and the executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California.
Douglas Emhoff, husband
Harris’ husband is her most enthusiastic cheerleader.
He’s a partner at DLA Piper, a law firm with offices in California and Washington. He’s currently on a leave of absence, according to the firm’s website.
The couple has been married since 2014, when Harris was California’s attorney general. Harris’ sister officiated the wedding at the Santa Barbara, California, courthouse. Harris is stepmother to his two kids, who call her “Momala.”
Emhoff is protective. Last summer, he rushed onstage to grab a protester who had seized a microphone from Harris, CNN reported.
He’s excited about the prospect of becoming the first US second gentleman. Jill Biden wrote to him on Twitter the day Harris was announced as the vice-presidential pick: “Are you ready?” Emhoff replied: “Ready to work!”
Tony West, political confidant
Maya Harris’ husband is a longtime political confidant to his sister-in-law Kamala.
He also holds a powerful position in corporate America: He’s Uber’s chief legal officer.
Their positions put them at odds last year over contentious California legislation to limit the business’ ability to hire independent contractors, the Los Angeles Times reported. Harris — then a presidential candidate — backed the bill; West and Uber opposed it.
Meena Harris, niece
Harris’ niece (Maya Harris’ daughter) is another family member in the inner circle.
She worked on Harris’ 2016 Senate campaign and launched the “Phenomenal Woman Action Campaign,” whose statement T-shirts have been sported by celebrities such as Serena Williams and Lena Dunham.
She’s a Harvard Law School graduate who has also worked as a data and cybersecurity lawyer and as Uber’s head of strategy and leadership. She recently published a children’s book about her mother and her aunt.
Karine Jean-Pierre, chief of staff
Biden’s team announced that Jean-Pierre would be the chief of staff for his running mate even before Harris’ selection was publicly announced.
Before she was picked as Harris’ top campaign aide, Jean-Pierre joined Biden’s campaign in the spring as a senior adviser. She was previously MoveOn’s chief public-affairs officer. She also worked in the Obama White House and on his 2008 and 2012 presidential campaigns.
She was the moderator during the debate where a protester grabbed the microphone from Harris; Jean-Pierre leapt up and stood between Harris and the protester.
“Here comes this guy with all of his male privilege and jumps on stage and says, ‘I have something better to talk about. I have something that I want to say,'” Jean-Pierre later told MSNBC of the incident.
Rohini Kosoglu, campaign senior adviser
Kosoglu has joined the Biden-Harris team as a senior adviser to Harris.
She was a longtime Capitol Hill aide and Harris’ Senate chief of staff before she joined Harris’ own 2020 presidential campaign as chief of staff.
Kosoglu was previously a health-policy adviser to Colorado Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet and an aide to Sen. Debbie Stabenow, a Michigan Democrat.
Sabrina Singh, press secretary
Singh is Harris’ press secretary. She joined the Biden-Harris team soon after Harris was announced as VP pick.
Singh had been on Harris’ political team since March as communications director and a senior adviser.
She is a former Democratic National Committee spokeswoman who worked for New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker’s 2020 presidential campaign and for former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s White House bid.
She has also done communications work for the Democratic Governors Association, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, and Democratic Reps. Jan Schakowsky of Illinois and Brad Sherman of California.
Sheila Nix, campaign senior adviser
Nix is a senior campaign adviser to Harris.
She’s also a longtime staffer for Joe and Jill Biden. She was Jill Biden’s chief of staff from 2013 until 2017 and was then-Vice President Joe Biden’s chief of staff during Obama’s 2012 reelection campaign. She worked in the Senate as chief of staff to then-Florida Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson.
After she left the Obama White House, Nix became president of Tusk Philanthropies.
Liz Allen, communications director
Allen is Harris’ new campaign communications director.
She worked in Biden’s press shop when he was vice president and went on work do communications in the State Department and serve as Obama’s deputy communications director. She joined the Glover Park Group, a communications and consulting firm, after leaving the Obama administration.
Vince Evans, political director
Evans, Harris’ new political director, is a Florida Democratic insider.
He had been has been working as Biden’s southern political director, and was previously a staffer to Florida Democratic Rep. Al Lawson. Evans also worked on Andrew Gillum’s 2018 Florida gubernatorial race, which Gillum lost narrowly to Trump-ally Ron DeSantis.
Amanda Perez, policy director
Perez, Harris’ new policy director, is a former Capitol Hill staffer who also worked on New Jersey Democratic Sen. Cory Booker’s 2020 presidential campaign.
Perez was previously senior policy director at the National Domestic Workers Alliance, policy director for the US Senate Democratic Policy and Communications Committee and policy director at the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.
She worked for then-Minnesota Democratic Sen. Al Franken on the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee, and for several House Democrats.
Courtney O’Donnell, Emhoff’s chief of staff
O’Donnell joined the campaign as Emhoff’s chief of staff in September, Politico reported.
She was previously Jill Biden’s communications director during the Obama administration and director of global affairs and strategic partnerships at Airbnb.
She’s a presidential campaign veteran. During the 2004 campaign, she worked on communications for Howard Dean and then for Elizabeth Edwards, the wife of then-Democratic vice presidential nominee John Edwards.
Amos Jackson III, deputy political director
Jackson was a special assistant in Harris’ Senate office before he joined her team on the Biden campaign.
He’s a 2019 graduate of Howard University (Harris’ alma mater), where he was president of the student association. He also worked on her presidential campaign in 2019.
He got an early heads up from longtime Democratic Party official Donna Brazile when Harris had been picked as the VP nominee, BuzzFeed reported. “When I told him she had been selected, and that he had to keep it quiet, he just cried,” Brazile said. “And for me, that summed up what this moment has been.”
Shelby Cole, digital director
Cole was the digital director on Harris’ 2019 presidential campaign before joining the Biden campaign this year as Harris’ digital director.
Cole was credited with helping then-Senate candidate Beto O’Rourke with a formidable online fundraising haul during his closer-than-expected 2018 bid to oust incumbent Texas Republican Sen. Ted Cruz.
Ryan Montoya, scheduling and advance director
Montoya was chief technology officer for the NBA’s Sacramento Kings before he was hired as Harris’ director of scheduling and advance. He was also a staffer in the Obama White House.
He worked on John Edwards’ 2004 presidential campaign and for Vice President Al Gore’s 2000 White House campaign.
Evan Glover, scheduling director
Glover joined the Biden campaign in July 2019; he became Harris’ scheduling director after she was picked as the VP nominee. Glover was previously an associate at the law firm K&L Gates and worked on advance — coordinating travel and events — in the Obama White House.
He also worked on the advance staff for Obama’s 2012 reelection campaign and as a crowd manager for Obama’s 2013 inauguration.
Gina Lee, scheduling and advance director for Doug Emhoff
Lee, Emhoff’s scheduling and advance director, is a veteran of the Biden foundation and the Obama White House.
She was a senior policy associate at the Biden Foundation, worked on scheduling and advance for Hillary Clinton’s 2016 campaign, and worked in the White House offices of legislative affairs and presidential personnel.
Kristine Lucius, Senate chief of staff
Lucius has been Harris’ top Senate staffer since last October. She was previously executive vice president for policy and government affairs at the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights.
Lucius also spent 15 years working as a Senate Judiciary Committee staffer, including a stint as the senior legal and policy adviser to the committee’s top Democrat, Vermont Sen. Patrick Leahy.
Chris Harris, Senate communications director
Harris, the California senator’s communications director, has been on her staff since early 2019. He was previously the top communications aide for Connecticut Democratic Sen. Chris Murphy.
Harris previously worked on Mark Udall’s 2014 Senate campaign, for the Democratic super PAC American Bridge 21st Century, and for the advocacy group Media Matters for America.
Deanne Millison, Senate legislative director
Millison joined Harris’ staff in March 2019 as her legislative director. She worked in Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s office from 2016 until 2019 as a senior policy adviser and deputy director of legislative counsel and government affairs.
She was previously legislative director for California Democratic Rep. Maxine Waters and was special counsel to the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee for Delaware Sen. Tom Carper.
Meaghan Lynch, Senate press secretary
Lynch became Harris’ Senate press secretary in May 2019 after several years working in the US House for North Carolina Democratic Rep. G. K. Butterfield.
In 2018, she helped organize the Black Women’s Congressional Alliance, a group formed to elevate diverse voices on Capitol Hill.
Mesloh is a longtime friend and a Democratic strategist who has worked for Harris since her early political career in California.
She volunteered on Harris’ district-attorney race in 2003, her attorney general campaign in 2010, and her Senate campaign in 2016.
Mesloh is frequently quoted in local and national news articles praising Harris. In a USA Today story published last summer, Mesloh was quoted describing how Harris would insist on an afternoon cookie break for staffers when she was district attorney.
And if it was a staffer’s birthday, “expect a call and a song from her,” Mesloh told the newspaper. “She never forgets.”
The California Democratic strategist managed Harris’ 2010 attorney general campaign and her 2014 reelection campaign. He was a senior adviser during her 2015 Senate campaign.
He’s now a political adviser to California Gov. Gavin Newsom. Shortly after Harris was picked as Biden’s running mate, Brokaw spoke with several news outlets, offering praise for his former boss. He told The Wall Street Journal that Harris would be a tough target for her GOP critics: “She is not somebody who can easily be pigeonholed as one ideology or another.”
The California political strategist was Harris’ chief of staff in the Senate until early 2019. He’s now a Sacramento-based political strategist.
He’s a longtime Harris adviser and confidant. He worked for her at the California attorney general’s office as chief deputy attorney general and as her chief of staff.
“Joe Biden is a very wise person,” Barankin tweeted shortly after Harris was picked as Biden’s running mate.
Smith is a veteran Democratic strategist and a partner at SCRB Strategies, a firm that’s packed with Harris alumni.
He advised Harris in her 2010 election as attorney general and was an adviser to her presidential campaign last year.
Another California political strategist and partner at SCRB Strategies, Clegg was a key strategist behind Harris’ 2016 Senate race. He was also an outside adviser to her 2020 presidential bid.
He was deputy mayor to former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and is a longtime national media consultant.