Exclusive: Bernie Sanders Campaign Announces 10 New Women Hires

Natalie Gontcharova

The Bernie Sanders 2020 presidential campaign has announced 15 new hires in key positions, 10 of whom are women. This comes on the heels of the campaign hiring four key Iowa staffers and three 2016 veterans in New Hampshire last week.

The campaign says that now, every single one of its teams — management, political, policy, organizing, communications, advance, digital, and fundraising — has women, and predominantly women of color, in leadership positions. Overall, the national leadership team is around 70% women.

The women coming on board include: René Spellman, deputy campaign manager, a Bernie 2016 alumna who has worked in the Obama White House; Analilia Mejia, political director, a union organizer who was honored by President Obama as a "Champion of Change"; Sarah Badawi, deputy political director, previously the legislative affairs director for the Progressive Change Campaign Committee; Claire Sandberg, national organizing director, a Bernie 2016 alumna and previously the deputy campaign manager for Abdul El-Sayed's gubernatorial run in Michigan; Dr. Heather Gautney, deputy director of policy, formerly a senior policy advisor on the U.S. Senate Budget Committee and a researcher for Bernie 2016; Arianna Jones, communications director, a Bernie 2016 alumna with experience leading media strategy for progressive clients; Sarah Ford, deputy communications director, a Bernie 2016 alumna who served as the communications director for Cynthia Nixon's 2018 gubernatorial campaign in New York; Briahna Joy Gray, national press secretary, a former attorney and senior politics editor at The Intercept; Georgia Parke, senior social media strategist, who worked in Sen. Sanders' Senate office since 2016; and Robin Curran, digital fundraising director, formerly the email director at the Democratic National Committee.

Other hires include campaign manager Faiz Shakir, chief of staff Ari Rabin-Havt, policy director Josh Orton, senior communications advisor and speech writer David Sirota, and senior advisor Tim Tagaris.

Staff applauded the campaign's efforts to diversify its lineup compared to 2016.

"I think it's important to ensure that a campaign is reflective of the individuals they're trying to reach, and a campaign is better served when it has a more representative staff," political director Analilia Mejia told Refinery29. "As a grassroots organizer, when I've worked in diverse teams it just creates more dynamic and positive outcomes."

"It's this idea that you can't have a campaign about Democratic socialism, about supporting marginalized people and dismantling the patriarchy, without having people who've experienced this our whole lives," added René Spellman, the deputy campaign manager. "He's hiring these people who have created policies and practices not just by reading textbooks, but because of the life they've lived. It's not lip service, it's lived experience."

Claire Sandberg, the national organizing director, said that most of the volunteers in the 2016 campaign, which she also worked on, were women. "Personnel is policy, so having a diverse leadership team and having women in leadership was important for Bernie to do," she said. "We have all learned a lot of lessons across the board in virtually every area of the campaign; there are many areas in which we want to do things better this time."

Last week, the campaign announced that it would be the first major presidential party campaign in history to unionize its workers. "The measures of success for campaigns are going to have to go beyond money raised, offices opened, and current standing in polls," said Arianna Jones, the campaign's communications director. "It's about how campaigns are making meaningful commitments and investments in the core principles of inclusion and equity. We learned a lot in 2016, and what we're seeing in the lineup and leadership is a reflection of our campaign goals. This campaign needs to be a reflection of the people that are supporting it."

The campaign will visit California for the first time this week, holding rallies in San Diego and San Francisco, following stops in Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina, and Nevada.

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