President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris officially kicked off their re-election campaign on Tuesday with a three minute video in which Biden promised to “finish the job” and take on “MAGA extremists.” Biden also announced his leadership team, including Julie Chávez Rodríguez, who will serve as his campaign manager. Multiple sources talked to TPM about Rodríguez and her experience in the White House that prepared her to take on the role.
“She is a get-shit-done staffer. That is what we need in this moment and I think the president and vice president trust her to do that,” a White House official said of Rodríguez.
Prior to leading Biden’s campaign, Rodríguez served as the director of the White House office of intergovernmental affairs, which is focused on liaising with state, local, and tribal officials during crises and other pressing issues. The White House official and a senior Biden campaign staffer who discussed Rodríguez’s work described that role as ideal preparation for her new position. Both sources requested anonymity to discuss the campaign.
“Julie is somebody that I think brings three things: experience, personal connection to the Biden agenda and Bidenworld, and also just a personality that is really perfect for a 2024 campaign,” the senior campaign staffer said of Rodríguez. “Her role as Intergovernmental Affairs director and her leadership there is really going to be huge for the dynamics of this race.”
Both the White House official and the senior Biden campaign staffer also pointed to Rodríguez’s personal story and background in the labor movement. Rodríguez is the granddaughter of Mexican American union activist César Chávez.
The senior campaign staffer described Rodríguez as “unflappable” with strong “execution ability” that was evidenced through her work having “spearheaded” the administration’s response to a slew of high pressure moments. They said she led efforts to mobilize after a variety of crises and of “weeklong” and “monthlong” news cycles including the 2021 Surfside condo collapse.
“The role on emergency response … is so unique,” the staffer said. “Whether it be a hurricane or a bridge collapse, she is the person who coordinated that for the White House. … if you can handle that, then you’re ready for the campaign.”
The White House official also pointed out that Rodríguez played that role as the administration was “managing the pandemic.”
Biden’s 2020 campaign was marked by leadership changes, with two staffers who later went on to senior roles in the White House, Anita Dunn and Jennifer O’Malley Dillon, ultimately leading the effort. The senior Biden campaign staffer said Dunn and Dillon will “play criticial roles from the White House” as the president runs for re-election.
Prior to leading Biden’s office of intergovernmental affairs, Rodríguez was a deputy campaign manager on his 2020 White House run. She came to the team after serving as the national political director and traveling chief of staff for Harris’ campaign. Rodríguez worked in Harris’ Senate office and in the White House during the administration of President Barack Obama.
The current White House official said Harris was “very supportive” of Rodríguez’s selection as campaign manager.
“I think the vice president has total trust and confidence in her leadership and views her as a dedicated, committed, competent leader,” the official said of Rodríguez.
With Biden set to run for re-election, high-profile Democrats have stayed out of the primary field. His announcement sets up the potential for a rematch with former President Trump, who launched his re-election campaign with his own new leadership team last November. Trump, who has led polls of the Republican primary field, reacted to the news of the president’s reelection bid with an email to supporters where he called Biden “the single worst president in American history.”
Inside the White House, multiple staffers said, Rodrguez has taken a particular interest in mentoring younger Latino staffers.
Before working in government and campaigns, Rodríguez served as the director of programs for a foundation named for her grandfather that is dedicated to working with Latino workers and families.
“She is the daughter of a movement leader, a labor leader, and a longtime advocate for women,” the White House official said.