Kamala Harris Has Reportedly Chosen New Communications Director as Staff Exodus Continues

© AP Photo / Jacquelyn MartinVice President Kamala Harris, left, and Guatemalan President Alejandro Giammattei, attend a news conference, Monday, June 7, 2021, at the National Palace in Guatemala City
Vice President Kamala Harris, left, and Guatemalan President Alejandro Giammattei, attend a news conference, Monday, June 7, 2021, at the National Palace in Guatemala City - Sputnik International, 1920, 07.01.2022
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The news comes amid media reports describing dysfunction and political infighting within the vice president's office as well as frustration displayed by key aides in the West Wing of the White House. Harris' team has played down the negative reports, calling them overblown.
US Vice President Kamala Harris has chosen Jamal Simmons as her new communications director, The Hill has reported, citing its sources. The decision is part of the overhaul of the Harris team, a source told The Hill, adding that Simmons is expected to "really change things up".
A Michigan native, Jamal Simmons has been in politics for more than 20 years. He worked on Bill Clinton's 1992 presidential campaign as a press assistant as well as deputy communications director for Al Gore's 2000 presidential campaign.
He's also served as an aide to former Florida Senator Bob Graham and was chief of staff to Carolyn Cheeks Kilpatrick, who represented Michigan's 13th congressional district. Simmons is said to be widely respected in Democratic circles. In 2009, Washington Life magazine named him one of the most influential people under 40.

"What impressed me about him back then — and something he is only better at today — was his ability to not just listen to everyone in the room but his ability to have the right people in the room every time, even if it didn't seem like it first glance", Matt McKenna, who has known Simmons for more than 20 years, told The Hill.

The report comes as yet another member of the Harris team announced his departure. Earlier this week, Vincent Evans, deputy director of public engagement and intergovernmental affairs, said he is leaving to become the executive director of the Congressional Black Caucus, which advocates for issues important to African Americans as well as minority communities across the country.

His departure follows those of other top aides in what has been described as an exodus by conservative media. Symone Sanders, chief spokesperson for the vice president, resigned last December. Her resignation followed the departure of communications director Ashley Etienne and several other staff members.

Axios wrote, citing its sources that one "recurring theme" among the staff members who left the VP's ranks was "concern" and even "fear" about how working for Kamala Harris would affect their career, with individuals worrying they'll be closely linked to a "flagging operation". Another source told the outlet that the reasons for departure are quite natural – better job offers, burnout, and interest in personal life.

The departures coincided with media reports, which spoke of a dour and tense atmosphere within the vice president's team, with staff reportedly being frustrated with dysfunctional operations. Current and former aides, who spoke with Politico said much of the anger is directed at Harris' Chief of Staff Tina Flournoy, who allegedly created an insular environment, where ideas and proposals are ignored and dismissed.

Other insiders blamed Harris for the tensions and frustration within the team.

"People are thrown under the bus from the very top, there are short fuses and it's an abusive environment. It's not a place where people feel supported but a place where people feel treated like s**t", one official, who requested anonymity told the outlet.

Axios reported that the Biden administration has been frustrated with the work of Kamala Harris' team and want to see more effective leadership from the second-in-command. Her aides, in turn, voiced discontent about the lack of support from the president's team and said the VP hasn't been given assignments where she could shine.

"They're consistently sending her out there on losing issues in the wrong situations for her skill set", a former high-level Harris aide told CNN.

The vice president has entered a new year with low approval ratings, though the numbers slightly improved. A USA Today/Suffolk University poll showed that only 32 percent of respondents have a favourable opinion of the second-in-command. Only 40 percent of the surveyed approve of Joe Biden's performance.
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