President Biden on Tuesday named Julie Chávez Rodríguez as the campaign manager for his re-election effort, elevating a senior adviser and the highest-ranking Latina in the White House to one of the most intense and scrutinized jobs in American politics.
Ms. Chávez Rodríguez, 45, a veteran of the Obama administration and of Vice President Kamala Harris’s political orbit, also worked on Mr. Biden’s 2020 presidential campaign before becoming director of the White House Office of Intergovernmental Affairs. She is the granddaughter of Cesar Chávez, the iconic labor leader.
Here are five things to know about the selection of Ms. Chávez Rodríguez:
She has navigated Bidenworld …
Mr. Biden has a small circle of close aides, some of whom have known him for years. Breaking into that world can be a challenge, and many Democrats expect that key advisers at the White House will oversee the operation.
But several Democrats said that Ms. Chávez Rodríguez had impressed Mr. Biden, 80, and his top advisers, adding that she was often seen as a trustworthy team player with strong political relationships.
She “didn’t start off as a Biden person, but she’s always been an honest broker,” said Cristóbal Alex, who worked on the 2020 Biden campaign and in the White House. In both places, he said, some came to embrace the slogan “in Julie we trust.”
She has not managed a campaign before, a departure from the résumés of some past presidential campaign managers who had run congressional races or were steeped in party committee work.
But she was a deputy campaign manager on the 2020 Biden campaign. At the White House, she dealt regularly with governors, mayors and other state and local leaders and led emergency response coordination efforts.
“The ability to multitask, the ability to move on a dime, to be able to step back and sort of take in the complexity and then manage through that complexity — I can’t imagine a more challenging job than the one she’s had,” said Gov. Phil Murphy, a New Jersey Democrat and the chair of the National Governors Association. “I’m not making light of what it’s like to run a presidential campaign for a second. It’s a big job. But she’s had a big job.”
… and Harris’s orbit.
She is also closely connected to Ms. Harris, who may draw particular attention from voters because of Mr. Biden’s age.
Ms. Chávez Rodríguez, a Californian, served as Ms. Harris’s state director when she was a California senator, and on her presidential campaign.
“Her deep relationships with Biden’s core team and a deep relationship with the vice president’s office, I think, makes for the ideal candidate,” said Juan Rodriguez, a strategist who worked with her (no relation, he said) under Ms. Harris.
A woman of color is now the face of Mr. Biden’s re-election campaign.
During the last presidential campaign, Mr. Biden at times faced criticism over the whiteness of his inner circle.
As he moves now to energize core elements of the multiracial coalition that delivered him the presidency, some Democrats said Ms. Chávez Rodríguez offered vital representation at the highest levels of American politics.
“People in the Hispanic community are feeling that,” said Cecilia Muñoz, who directed the Domestic Policy Council during the Obama administration, the first Hispanic person to hold that job.
She got an early start in political activism.
Ms. Chávez Rodríguez, who was arrested at age 9 during a protest, has seen her family and professional lives overlap.
Valerie B. Jarrett, who served as a senior adviser to former President Barack Obama, recalled that Ms. Chávez Rodríguez worked at the dedication of a national monument to her grandfather, but was reluctant to join a family photo, citing professional obligations. (Dolores Huerta, who worked closely with Mr. Chávez, insisted she join, Ms. Jarrett said.)
The moment demonstrated an “egoless quality, which is, let’s say, unusual oftentimes in high levels,” Ms. Jarrett said.
Whether that family legacy is meaningful to voters is another matter, said Matthew J. Garcia, a Dartmouth professor who has written about Mr. Chávez, noting that the United Farm Workers, the union he co-founded, has lost clout.
“It may work with baby boomers, but the newer generation have different ideas about the U.F.W., if they have any ideas at all,” he said.
Mr. Biden, however, placed a bust of Mr. Chávez in the Oval Office.
She is walking into a difficult job.
While Mr. Biden, as the incumbent, has many advantages, he also has clear liabilities. And in a deeply polarized country, early surveys show a competitive general election race.
Against that backdrop, Ms. Chávez Rodríguez must quickly help build a huge operation and balance Mr. Biden’s governing responsibilities with campaigning, while adjusting to leading a campaign for the first time.
“The traditional résumé of a campaign manager for a candidate for president of the United States is usually to be white and to be male,” Ms. Muñoz said. “If you’re a woman of color, you, almost by definition, have to come up through a nontraditional route. But I’ll tell you what — the president knows what she can do.”
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