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Diversity more than a buzz word at Warren campaign

Peter Van Delft
Diversity more than a buzz word at Warren campaign
U.S. Senate candidate Elizabeth Warren has diversified her campaign senior staff to reflect the state’s demographics. Here she is shown with campaign staffer Jason Burrell. (Photo: Peter Van Delft)

Author: Peter Van DelftU.S. Senate candidate Elizabeth Warren has diversified her campaign senior staff to reflect the state’s demographics. Here she is shown with campaign staffer Jason Burrell.

Within the vocabulary of today’s political campaigns, few words are employed for rhetorical effect as frequently and casually as that of “diversity.”

As an ever-increasing population becomes more racially and ethnically blended by the day, one would be hard pressed to find a candidate seeking elected office who doesn’t pay at least the faintest of lip service to the politics of inclusion, lest they sacrifice potentially crucial voting blocs come election time.

 While some of these campaigns focus their attention toward meeting an unspoken quota of sorts designed to provide the appearance of multi-culturalism to the outside world, here in Massachusetts there is at least one political operation that appears to be truly reflective of the diversity that is this Commonwealth.

 “Elizabeth Warren has been a strong advocate on issues important to working families and she is focused on reaching out to communities of color across Massachusetts,” said Tracey Lewis, deputy campaign manager for Elizabeth Warren for Massachusetts. “I’m proud to be a part of the diverse staff on this campaign.”  

Lewis is part of a senior staff that is comprised not only of accomplished professionals who carry a wealth of veteran political savvy into Warren’s race for United States Senate, but who also represent a wide cross-section of the people living in the communities of Massachusetts.

By campaign estimates, nearly half of the people filling leadership positions are people of color.

Regional Field Director Jason Burrell has worked for District 7 City Councilor Tito Jackson and in the Community Outreach Department of the Massachusetts Housing Finance Agency. He is also the chapter president/ assistant executive director for the district of the Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity.  

Roger Lau, political director for the Warren Campaign, carries the political cache of having served as the deputy state director for United States Senator John Kerry, state director for the Hillary Clinton presidential campaign, district director for Representative Marty Meehan, and chief of protocol for the U.S. Department of Commerce, among other duties.

 Deputy Political Director Jess Torres, who is also the director of the National YouthBuild Coalition, has worked as the policy director for Senator Thomas McGee, the field director and interim finance director for the John Tierney for Congress campaign and at the field desk for the Northeast Region of the Michael Capuano for U.S. Senate campaign.

 Policy Director Ganesh Sitaraman is a former public law fellow and lecturer at Harvard Law School who clerked for Judge Stephen F. Williams on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit. He was also a research fellow at the Counterinsurgency Training Center in Kabul, Afghanistan and a special advisor to the Congressional Oversight Panel for the Troubled Assets Relief Program (TARP).

 Steve Tompkins, a senior political advisor to the Warren campaign, is the chief of external affairs and communications for the Suffolk County Sheriff’s Department, where he oversees all community outreach efforts on behalf of the Sheriff’s Department. He recently took a leave of absence from the Sheriff’s office to work on the Warren campaign.

Tompkins has more than 30 years of experience in communications, marketing, media production and public affairs. He served as the director of marketing and public affairs for the Dimock Community Health Center and worked as a segment producer for ten years at ATandT Cable.

 Press Secretary Alethea Harney has extensive experience from her time serving as the press secretary for the Massachusetts office of the State Treasurer and as the director of communications and public affairs in the Governor’s Recovery and Reinvestment Office. Harney has also worked as a fiscal policy analyst for the Massachusetts Senate Committee on Ways and Means and has held various roles on political campaigns from the local to the national level, including her work in 2009 in Iowa as a senior advisor to Vice President Joseph Biden’s presidential campaign.

 Michelle Wu, the campaign’s political and constituency group organizer, has worked as the State Coordinator for APIA Vote (Asian and Pacific Islander American Vote), the largest nonpartisan political nonprofit focusing on Asian Pacific American civic engagement and political mobilization in Massachusetts. She has been a policy fellow for the Office of the Mayor of the City of Boston, and was the director of the Chinatown Citizenship Program. She also worked in the U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of the chief financial officer.

 Lewis herself was the statewide field director in New Hampshire for Secretary Hillary Clinton’s bid for the presidency as well as the senior field advisor for Clinton’s campaign in Tennessee, Texas, Pennsylvania, Kentucky, West Virginia and South Dakota. She was also the general election director for President Obama’s campaign in New Hampshire.

 “We’re fortunate to have an incredibly talented and experienced staff on this campaign,” said Mindy Myers, campaign manager for Elizabeth Warren for Massachusetts. “And they bring to this campaign an incredible diversity of backgrounds and experience that is an invaluable asset.”

 Others, including Mavrick Afonso, Ariel Vega, Erica Augustine, Dylan Fernandes, Issac Maze Rothstein, Pat Tomaino, Shaan Gajra, Sara Badawi, Audel Shokohzeadh, Joy Solon, and Christina Pacheco provide a mirror that reflects the faces of a diverse Massachusetts constituency.

 According to recent data from the U. S. Census Bureau, the estimated total population of Massachusetts — believed to be about 6,547,629 — approximately 1,282,393 are people of color. More than half of the residents of Massachusetts — 51.6 percent — are women. So the importance of multi-cultural, multi-gender representation is clear.

 “We need a diverse cast of leadership to exist amongst each campaign in order to represent the fundamental concerns of all parties, not just one exclusive set of people,” said Marvin Venay, executive director of the Massachusetts Black and Latino Legislative Caucus. “It’s also important for the underprivileged to be recognized and not just be viewed as numbers from a data perspective. You need people who understand the challenges faced by the people behind those numbers so that they can appropriately address those challenges.”

Telephone calls to U.S. Senator Scott Brown’s campaign office to discuss diversity within his campaign staff went unanswered.