We have reported earlier on the mass exodus of Kamala Harris’s staff. The exits continue, and it’s causing problems for the VP.
In fact, a seeming revolving door among those who try to work for her is not new to Harris. When she was senator, very few people in her office had the fortitude to stick with her during her time as attorney general in California. And when she was attorney general, there was some overlap, but only a small cadre of staffers came with her from her time as a district attorney in San Francisco.
Now, as the vice president’s domestic policy adviser Rohini Kosoglu, one of her closest and longest serving staff members, leaves her office, Harris is facing that problem yet again.
More than 13 high-profile aides have left the vice president’s office, including her director of speechwriting, Meghan Groob, just last week.
The ongoing exits have made headlines during Harris’s tenure, creating a narrative of instability in the vice president’s office. But Democrats are worried about the larger implications, particularly if President Biden chooses not to run for reelection.
Kosoglu’s exit earlier this month was particularly significant because she was one of the few aides who personally knew Harris’s preferences, style, and policy expertise.
The Democrats voicing private concerns say they are worried diehard Harris loyalists — the kind of advisers and strategists who stick to their principal through the ups and downs — are virtually nonexistent. It indicates a crisis of confidence in Harris’s ability to be an effective leader. Creating a perception of “if people can’t even stand to work for her, why would I want to vote for her?”
“It’s always been a problem,” said one former Harris aide. “You have to have your people around you.”
However, White House officials are trying to counter such perceptions, claiming that the VPs staff is very large, and given its size, the departures represent only a small percentage of her staff. They also point out that there are many staffers who have remained with Harris since her California days.
For example, Brian Nelson, who advised Harris when she was California’s attorney general and is now the undersecretary for terrorism and financial intelligence at the Department of Treasury. Other long-serving aides include Sean Clegg, a strategist on her presidential campaign, and Julie Chavez Rodriguez, who serves as a newly tapped senior adviser to Biden, worked in Harris’s Senate office before serving as her traveling chief of staff on her presidential campaign.
“The vice president has a vast network of friends from a long history in politics, and that network is always available to her and has been helpful to her along the way,” said one source close to Harris.
The vice president has sought to steady the ship in recent months, bringing in big-name party veterans, including Jamal Simmons, as her communications director, and Lorraine Voles, her new chief of staff who served as a communications director to former Vice President Al Gore and then as an adviser to Hillary Clinton.
Still, the lack of consistency with her staff could hamper the vice president’s political prospects, observers say.
“A loyal and competent staff can make or break a political career,” said Katherine Jellison, a professor of history at Ohio University, who pointed to John F. Kennedy’s so-called Irish mafia who followed him from his days on Capitol Hill to the White House. “I agree that the vice president would be standing on firmer ground for the future if she had longtime staffers she could count on for sound advice and necessary action.”