Political

DNC announces key staff hires as Biden takes hold of party

SAUL LOEB/AFP via Getty ImagesBy KENDALL KARSON, ABC News

(WASHINGTON) — The Democratic National Committee is announcing key members of its senior staff on Tuesday as the party’s political operation, in close alignment with the White House, turns its attention to the 2022 midterm elections.

Jaime Harrison, the newly elected chair who was President Joe Biden’s choice to take the reins of the DNC, tapped longtime Democratic operative Adrienne Watson to be communications director. Watson most recently steered the DNC’s war room, a clearinghouse for opposition research, and has held other prominent roles within the party, including serving as national press secretary with the DNC and as a spokesperson on Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign.

Joining Watson is Ofirah Yheskel as deputy communications director, after stints with the war room, the team behind the 2020 Democratic National Convention and Beto O’Rourke’s presidential campaign. Harrison also named Danai Pointer, who brings experience from both inside and outside the party apparatus, as communications outreach director.

Brad Woodhouse, a veteran Democratic strategist who is currently the executive director of Protect Our Care, a health care advocacy group, is also being brought on to consult with the DNC as a senior adviser for strategy and communications.

The number of alums being pulled from the party’s war room into more senior roles within the committee comes after they served as the party’s frontline in 2020, collecting extensive information on former President Donald Trump’s liabilities to strategically assail him throughout the campaign.

“Adrienne is one of the most talented and seasoned communicators in our party and we are thrilled that she’s agreed to take on this new and important assignment,” Harrison said in a statement. “With Adrienne, Ofirah and Danai at the helm, we are ready to communicate our president and our party’s priorities, policies and principles to the American people.”

The newly announced communications roster also comes as Biden and his team take hold of the party committee. The two will work in tandem ahead of 2022, when Democrats are hoping to hold onto razor-thin majorities in the House and Senate.

“We could not be more pleased that someone of Adrienne’s experience and expertise is taking on one of the most important communications roles in the Democratic Party,” said Anita Dunn, a senior adviser to Biden. “Adrienne and her team will play a critical role in communicating our party’s priorities and our agenda to Build Back Better.”

Biden’s stewardship brings a renewed focus on strengthening the party’s infrastructure to avoid the losses that presidents historically suffer in midterm elections.

That approach is a departure from the years under former President Barack Obama’s watch, when he folded his once campaign machine, rebranded as Organizing for America, into the DNC, a move that was criticized as building a parallel outfit. The party faced a “shellacking” by 2010.

After years of dysfunction at the committee — a result of the “lousy infrastructure,” as former DNC Chair Tom Perez put it in an interview with ABC News last November — the party apparatus ended the 2020 cycle in a far different position than it once was in: with the White House and Congress back in its grip after deepened investments in organizing and the state parties.

“The campaign and DNC worked hand in hand and that close relationship has grown into a strong partnership between the DNC and the White House,” a White House official said.

Even before Biden was inaugurated, he signaled early his continued commitment to the partnership with the DNC by handpicking Harrison, a former state party chair in South Carolina, to succeed Perez and lead the party through the next four years.

“We need to elect Democrats across our country and up and down the ballot,” Biden said in a statement announcing Harrison as his pick. “To do that is going to take tireless leadership, committed to strengthening Democratic infrastructure across our states.”

Harrison was easily elected chair just one week after Biden made his choice clear — far different circumstances from early 2017, when Perez took over the DNC after Democrats lost the 2016 presidential election and he overcame an unusually competitive field in the open race for chair.

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