- Turnover in Harris’ office is being driven by burnout and worries of being labeled a “Harris person,” per Axios.
- For months, the vice president has battled the narrative that her office has been dysfunctional.
- She has seen the departure of several aides this year — notably senior advisor Symone Sanders.
The ongoing staff turnover in Vice President Kamala Harris’ office is being driven by burnout, a desire for more fruitful opportunities, and apprehension to being labeled a “Harris person,” according to an Axios report.
This past week saw the announcement of the impending departure from Symone Sanders, the rising-star senior advisor and chief spokesperson for Harris who was previously a senior advisor for now-President Joe Biden’s 2020 campaign, as well as a Washington Post report detailing the expected exits of Peter Velz, the director of press operations, and Vince Evans, the deputy director of the Office of Public Engagement and Intergovernmental Affairs in Harris’ office.
Last month, news broke that Ashley Etienne, Harris’ communications director, would also be leaving the office.
For Harris — the first female, first Black, and first Indian American to hold the vice presidency — the narrative of an office is disarray is something that her allies feel can be overcome through a “reset,” according to Axios.
The stakes for the vice president are incredibly high. Not only does Harris play a pivotal role in the evenly-divided Senate as the tiebreaking vote — which aids Democrats in potentially passing the party’s nearly $2 trillion social-spending bill — but she is the presumed frontrunner in 2024 if Biden opts out of reelection and would be seen as the natural leader of the party in 2028 if the president serves for two terms.
Harris allies told Axios that the vice president has a great shot at recalibrating and moving beyond her office’s wobbly start, but in the same report, it was noted that several top Biden staffers “privately roll their eyes” at her staff and would like to see more constructive leadership.
A Democratic strategist who spoke with Axios said that the vice president needed “someone loyal who can think methodically” to aid in her communication strategy and help increase her poll numbers.
An early November USA Today/Suffolk poll pegged Harris with a 28% approval rating, with 51% disapproving of her performance, a tough position for the vice president as she tackles some of the most challenging issues for the administration, including migration at the US-Mexico border and voting rights.
Republicans – eager to win back control of Congress in 2022 and install one of their own to the White House in 2024 — have hammered Harris on immigration issues for months.
A Democratic operative with ties to Harris’ office who spoke with Axios said that the exits put increased pressure on Tina Flournoy, the vice president’s chief of staff, to help turn around the office.
“If we mess this up, it’s going to set women back when it comes to running for higher office for years to come,” the operative told the news outlet.
Several individuals close to Harris told Axios that the staff turnover is expected, as the administration nears its first year in office while dealing with a cascade of crises.
However, as staffers look to 2024 and 2028, some want to work on Biden’s 2024 reelection campaign, while others don’t want to be too wedded to Harris — especially if they find themselves attracted to another Democratic presidential candidate in the coming years.
When asked about the departure of Sanders — one of the most well-known Democratic strategists in Washington, DC — Harris on Thursday had nothing but kind words for her aide.
“I love Symone. I know that it’s been three years jumping on and off planes going around the country and she works very hard, and I can’t wait to see what she’ll do next,” she said.
“I mean that sincerely,” she added.