After about a year in the post, Vice President Kamala Harris’s communications director Jamal Simmons is leaving his role and is expected to depart next month. In a statement, Simmons said: “Working for Vice President Harris has been an honor and a privilege. I’m so thankful for the confidence she put in me and I will miss this fantastic team more than anything.” Simmons plans to move to New York with his family.
Harris’ chief of staff, Lorraine Voles, told staff of his coming departure, and noted that Simmons, who is a longtime communications aide in Democratic circles, had “agreed to come on board for a year.” Voles said in her email that she knew Simmons “could help me steady the ship,” and she credited him for growing the “V.P’s digital presence and building relationships with national, regional and constituency media,” reported Politico.
Anita Dunn, a senior adviser to President Joe Biden, said in a statement: “Jamal has been a great partner in the vice president’s office and he is a talented member of our White House communications team.” “He has been a vital driver in communicating the work of the vice president and our shared White House agenda during a very critical year, culminating in history-defying results,” said Anita.
Harris’s office was joined by Simmons in January, and during his tenure as comms director, he pushed the team to adopt a more offensive posture after the first year beset by missteps and with scrutiny, neither the White House nor Harris’ office were prepared, and he generally helped to stabilize the vice president’s team. Simmons advocated that Harris hit the road to introduce herself to the country, and he was also among the most vocal aides encouraging Harris to conduct more interviews.
The Vice President traveling to spots that typically were bypassed by the White House was involved in the strategy from Simmons, while also meeting with smaller groups to build out a network of key constituency groups during the midterms. He was described by his peers as a stabilizing force.
In an interview, former White House press secretary Jen Psaki said: “The first year is exciting and there’s so much incoming. And you’re just trying to survive every day in many ways.” “As it gets into the second year, you have the ability to take a bigger picture approach and really think about how you want your boss, the president, or the vice president to be out there,” added Psaki.
At a moment when Harris and Joe Biden are potentially gearing up for a reelection campaign, a major hole in the Vice President’s staff is being opened with Simmons’ departure. Voles told staff in her email that she was “working with the communications team to determine next organizational steps.” But now, advisers and aides in Harris’s world are also saying that they feel more confident in her position than early on in the Biden administration. Simmons is also being credited by former and current aides for helping improve the office environment, with one former aide saying he was able to “steady the ship by really having her leaning in.”
The former staff also said that “one of the things that he put in place was really like a flood the zone play, which is, a vacuum attracts anything. “He really pushed to get her much more out there. So a lot more TV, more creative on the social front. More digital first interviews,” the former staff added.