The moves come amid a broader expansion of the Biden campaign, which included a doubling of his digital staff and new hires in fundraising and organizing. Staffing up will continue and will increase significantly in June, according to Biden’s campaign manager, Jen O’Malley Dillon.
“It is a reflection of what the vice president has said is a priority for this campaign,” O’Malley Dillon said in an interview, speaking of the new hires. “To ensure the diversity of the whole campaign reflects the diversity of the country but also making sure we’re really representing the coalitions and these communities within the campaign.”
The new department Allison will helm is modeled on a part of the Obama 2012 campaign that was called “Operation Vote,” said O’Malley Dillon, who served as deputy campaign manager on that team. “Operation Vote” was designed as a large, centralized department for reaching ethnic, religious and other voter groups.
The Biden campaign’s version will manage the campaign’s coalitions, some of which will center on race, gender, community or policy issues. Some of the Biden campaign’s relationships are stronger than others.
The campaign’s personnel diversity has also drawn scrutiny. When presented with staff diversity figures from other campaigns last year by Politico, Biden’s campaign declined to release its own numbers. It declined to say this week what percentage of the campaign staff are people of color.
Campaign officials hope the new unit will help foster a sense of cohesion at a time when the novel coronavirus pandemic has limited traditional politicking.
“When you can’t go into a neighborhood and you can’t go into your field office in the same way, you might be able to connect more easily with the groups you already identify with,” said Jenn Ridder, another veteran of the Obama 2012 effort who serves as Biden’s national states director.
Biden has surrounded himself with Obama alumni, both on his campaign and in his orbit of unofficial advisers and confidants. He has consulted Obama, whom he refers to publicly as “Barack” to convey the closeness of their friendship.
From July 2014 to January 2017, Allison was deputy director and senior policy adviser under Valerie Jarrett in the White House Office of Public Engagement. Jarrett is a close friend of Barack and Michelle Obama and was a top White House official. She called Allison “amazingly talented, organized, disciplined” and said she was her “point person” on criminal justice.
“The fact that he is drawing from very talented Obama alumni means that he will have a team that is seasoned and experienced,” said Jarrett, speaking of Biden. She praised Biden’s efforts to diversify his operation and said that while he might not be able to match President Trump’s fundraising, his campaign can succeed because the staffers on it are “scrappy, they are talented and they are experienced.”
The staffing moves come as Biden is in the process of making his most significant personnel decision of all: who will serve as his running mate. In television interviews broadcast Tuesday, Biden said he has not yet conducted interviews with any of the women he is considering for the role.
A panel he assembled to help him pick a running mate is interviewing “a myriad number of people who are being considered to … go to the next step of having a deep background check done,” he told WXYZ in Detroit.