Sanders joined his organization at the beginning of the election and played a “critical” role that another Biden adviser described as “critical”. Sanders defended him against allegations of being friends with segregationists and offered the unique perspective of a woman of color when Biden’s top advisors were all white from an early age. Their connection to a new and diversifying generation of Democrats and their talent for speaking to their concerns added a new dimension to the campaign’s leadership roles.
If Sanders were chosen for the post of press secretary, he would be the first African American to serve in the role – a history making way that appeals to Biden, campaign officials said.
“She’s lightning-smart, one of those people who, whether you’re just talking or arguing, really have to keep up,” said Ed Gillespie, a former White House adviser to President Bush, who met Sanders when they were a companion at Harvard . “She is always half a step ahead, if not a full step ahead.”
Sanders, who grew up in Omaha, Neb., Joined Bernie Sanders as the 25-year-old national press secretary in 2015. Her appointment came weeks after facing demonstrations at the Netroots Nation progressive conference and as a Senator from Vermont, re-tooling his embassy to better respond to the nascent Black Lives Matter movement.
After the 2016 campaign, Sanders worked as a political commentator on CNN. She spoke to and was courted by many of the 2020 Democratic presidential candidates before ultimately choosing Biden. Sanders took considerable heat to their decision, especially from progressives. In early television appearances representing the Biden campaign, she was forced to answer difficult questions about his authorship for the 1994 Crime Act.
Even before the campaign ended, Sander’s influence inside and media personality outside sparked speculation about her future. She wasn’t shy about her career goals. In her recent book, she urged aspiring politicians to write down their goals and even practice speaking them out loud.
“It’s like saying, ‘One day I want to be the White House press secretary! “I said so,” wrote Sanders. “Everyone says, don’t tell people your dreams because it will kill them. No! You have to express them – you have to give them oxygen so that they can breathe and grow and become something real. They’re not real if you’ve never told anyone about them! “
In addition to serving as a senior advisor to Biden, Sanders quietly acted as the top advisor to elected Vice President Kamala Harris, traveling with her frequently and helping the Senator prepare for the debate and speeches. Sanders is close to Harris’ sister Maya, and she became a trusted advocate for Harris within the Biden campaign, according to Biden aides and Harris allies.
Harris, who could only include a handful of her own staff in the campaign, increasingly relied on Sanders because she was familiar with Biden and nearing his broader political orbit. “She was able to answer questions locally because she attended these meetings,” said a Biden aide.
As Biden’s staff take shape in the White House, Harris works to build her own office. Harris recently enlisted Minyon Moore, a member of Biden’s Transitional Advisory Board and former Hillary Clinton’s 2016 campaign senior advisor, to recruit and review candidates for top management positions, including Harris’ new Vice President of Staff and Director of Communications.
Kenny Thompson, a Biden donor who had volunteered for the campaign and previously worked with Bedingfield in the Vice President’s office, hoped she would reunite with Sanders in the White House.
“It’s a really good tag team,” he said.