Trump lags Biden on people of color in top campaign ranks
WASHINGTON » Amid a summer of racial unrest and calls for more diversity in leadership, President Donald Trump lags Democratic rival Joe Biden in the percentage of people of color on their campaign staffs, according to data the campaigns provided to The Associated Press.
Twenty-five percent of the Republican president’s senior staff are nonwhite, compared to 36% of Biden’s senior staff. Biden’s overall campaign team is 35% nonwhite; Trump’s campaign did not provide a comparable number.
And neither campaign provided racial breakdowns for their nonwhite staff, nor the total number of staffers who are on their payrolls, including senior staff.
Advocates for minority groups say staff diversity is necessary to ensure political candidates hear a full range of voices and viewpoints to help them understand the concerns of various communities and interest groups — especially at a time when racial injustice is front and center in the national conversation. And while Biden has an edge on Trump, there is plenty more to be done in presidential campaigns overall.
Jennifer Lawless, commonwealth professor of politics at the University of Virginia, said “there are still a lot of milestones that haven’t been hit” by political campaigns, such as a Black man or woman directing — and winning — a presidential campaign. And she said having diverse staff at lower levels in campaigns can help increase the pool of future managers, finance chairs and others.
“It’s all part of the pipeline,” Lawless said.
Trump’s campaign makeup got a double-take in June when Vice President Mike Pence tweeted — and later deleted — a photo from his visit to campaign headquarters. The photo at first drew attention for the lack of social distancing and use of face masks among the staff. But it also was notable for the sea of mostly white faces.
Eric Rodriguez, senior vice president of policy and advocacy at UnidosUS, said the Biden team had more Latinos in senior positions than Trump.
“You need people from those communities to be able to make those connections,” said Rodriguez, whose organization used to be called the National Council of La Raza.
The rival campaigns fared better — and are about even —- on employing women, with females filling more than half of all jobs overall, and more than half of all senior positions.
The president’s daughter-in-law, Lara Trump, who is white, former White House aide Mercedes Schlapp, who is Cuban American, and Katrina Pierson, who is Black and worked on Trump’s 2016 campaign, are among the highest-profile senior female staffers working to help reelect him.
Others include former Fox News host Kimberly Guilfoyle, now a top campaign fundraiser and the girlfriend of Trump’s son, Donald Trump Jr., and Hannah Castillo, the campaign’s coalitions director. Guilfoyle’s late mother was from Puerto Rico. Castillo is Mexican American.
Biden senior adviser Symone Sanders, who is Black, is the campaign’s highest-ranking person of color and, at 30, is the youngest member of his inner circle. The candidate also recently brought on several African Americans who worked for President Barack Obama, including Karine Jean-Pierre, formerly an NBC News and MSNBC political analyst.
Jamal Brown, a spokesperson for Biden, said the former vice president’s campaign reflects the “diversity, breadth and promise of America.”
“He believes our democracy is strongest when people see themselves reflected in their government,” added Brown, who is Black.
The killing in May of George Floyd, who was Black, by a white Minneapolis police officer sparked nationwide protests against racial injustice and calls for greater minority representation across the board in society that brought fresh scrutiny to the presidential campaigns.
On June 20, President Donald Trump speaks during a campaign rally at the BOK Center in Tulsa, Okla.