U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris has hired a seasoned operative to head her 2020 presidential campaign in South Carolina, her campaign announced Friday, making a key hire as the competition for staff and infrastructure in the critical early-voting state intensifies.
South Carolina native Jalisa Washington-Price will serve as Harris’ state director and deputy national political director, the California Democrat’s campaign said, advising and directing overall political efforts from her perch in South Carolina.
The strategic move shows the emphasis that Harris is placing on her campaign in South Carolina, which holds the first presidential balloting in the South. The state also is the first place for candidates to test their messaging in front of a mostly black Democratic primary electorate.
Most recently, Washington-Price was chief of staff for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, where she also directed the Office of Diversity. For the 2018 midterms, Washington-Price worked to flip dozens of U.S. House seats that had been held by Republicans into Democratic control.
Previously, Washington-Price also worked on Hillary Clinton‘s 2016 campaign, as political director in South Carolina as well as regionally. Clinton won the 2016 South Carolina primary, defeating U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont.
With the field of 2020 Democratic hopefuls beginning to take shape, several of the campaigns have begun to lay claim to staff in each of the early states and make plans for substantive visits, following on to earlier, mostly brief introductory trips. Earlier this week, U.S. Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey announced directors and advisers in all of the early states as well as trips this month to Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina.
Harris also has announced plans to visit those states and Nevada this month, beginning next week with a two-day stop to South Carolina.
U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand of New York begins a three-day trip to South Carolina on Friday.