Harris campaign cuts headquarters staff, moves some to Iowa

Kathleen Ronayne
Associated Press

Sacramento, Calif. – California Sen. Kamala Harris is increasing the Iowa stakes for her sagging Democratic presidential campaign, with her campaign laying off several dozen staff members and transferring others from early states Nevada and New Hampshire to the lead-off caucus state.

“Plenty of winning primary campaigns, like John Kerry’s in 2004 and John McCain’s in 2008, have had to make tough choices on their way to the nomination, and this is no different,” her campaign manager, Juan Rodriguez, wrote in a memo to staff that was shared by the campaign Wednesday.

Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., speaks at the SEIU Unions For All Summit on Friday, Oct. 4, 2019, in Los Angeles.

Harris had already pledged to go all-in on Iowa, joking she was moving there, and earlier Wednesday her campaign touted the 15 days she spent in the state this month as the “October Hustle.” It was more than any of her competitors spent there in October, but she’s still polling behind competitors such as Joe Biden and Elizabeth Warren.

Harris is the most prominent Democratic candidate so far to announce a major campaign restructuring less than 100 days out from the Iowa caucus. Politico was the first to report the overhaul.

The changes come a full month after Rodriguez visited Iowa to evaluate the campaign’s organization and on the eve of an important Iowa Democratic fundraiser.

On Friday, thousands of party activists, donors and officials – along with more than 150 members of the news media – will be listening closely to Harris’ speech for signs of new energy.

Among the changes outlined in the memo: Rodriguez and campaign consultants will take a pay cut, though it doesn’t say by how much; several dozen people will be laid off at Baltimore headquarters; and staff from New Hampshire, Nevada, California and headquarters will be moved to Iowa. The memo also doesn’t say how many people will be transferred to Iowa.

The campaign, which has not yet run any television advertising, hopes to spend at least $1 million on a media campaign in the weeks before the Feb. 3 caucus, the memo said.

Rodriguez tried to distinguish the memo from “gimmicks” by New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker and former Obama Cabinet official Julian Castro, who said they would leave the race if they couldn’t raise enough quick cash.

Harris plans to spend significant time in Iowa again in November, including over Thanksgiving, her campaign said. She’s in Iowa through this weekend and has announced a trip to New Hampshire next week. Her campaign hasn’t released her schedule beyond that.