Top row: LaDavia Drane; Osi Imeokparia; Clay Middleton; Jalisa Washington; Maya Harris; Ida Woldemichael. Center row: Marcus Ferrell; Electra Skrzydlewski; Danny D. Glover; Symone Sanders; LaDawn Blackett Jones; Roy Tatum. Bottom row: Deana Bass; Katrina Pierson; Armstrong Williams; Elroy Sailor; Kay Cole James; Shermichael Singleton.

If you want the black vote, it helps if you hire individuals in key positions who reflect the community.

That was the advice given to Democratic campaigns by Quentin James, co-founder of Inclusv, a hiring-initiative project created by Power PAC+, which released a report on staff diversity focused on hiring for each Democratic campaign.  


“If staffers of color are not at the forefront in every department of your campaign, it’s inauthentic to say you are ready to lead our nation on issues like immigration or criminal-justice reform. … If candidates want our support, people of color have to play prominent and vital roles within their campaigns,” said James as the report was released.  

In the months after Inclusv’s report, more African Americans became players in the race for the White House. The first two contests of the 2016 campaign are the Feb. 1 Iowa caucuses and the New Hampshire primary Feb. 9. Below is a look at African Americans who are staffers on presidential campaigns now.  

Hillary Clinton’s African-American Staff

There are over 20 African Americans in top positions on Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign. LaDavia Drane, who was the executive director of the Congressional Black Caucus under Rep. Marcia Fudge (D-Ohio), is Clinton’s African-American outreach director.


Maya Harris holds the title of Senior Policy Advisor on the campaign. Marlon Marshall, who campaigned for Clinton in 2008 and then became a member of the Obama administration, is Clinton’s director of state campaigns and political engagement. 

Tyrone Gayle, a veteran of the 2012 campaign of Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) and of Capitol Hill, handles regional communications for the campaign. Hans Goff is Clinton’s regional political states director; Charles Olivier is the deputy chief financial officer and controller; and Elizabeth Gramling is the campaign’s operations director. 

Brynne Craig is Clinton’s deputy director of state campaigns; Tracey Lewis is primary states director; and Richard McDaniel is Southern regional primary states director.

Former staffer to Rep. Jim Clyburn (D-S.C.) and Citadel graduate Clay Middleton is Clinton’s South Carolina state director. Jalisa Washington is the South Carolina political director, and Erin Stevens is the New York state director for the campaign. 

Others include Bernard Coleman, chief diversity and human resources officer; De’Ara Balenger, Director of Engagement; Marcus Switzer, deputy national finance director; Angelique Cannon, deputy national finance director for the mid-Atlantic region; and Joslyn Massengale, corporate counsel.

The Clinton campaign also has black staffers running important aspects of its tech operations: Ida Woldemichael, who previously worked at the Clinton Foundation, is a senior designer; Osi Imeokparia, a Google and eBay alum and Stanford graduate, is the Clinton campaign’s chief product officer; and Sharif Corinaldi is a senior software engineer. 


Karen Finney is senior adviser for communications and political outreach for the Clinton presidential campaign. In late 2015, Clinton hired veteran black pollster Ron Lester and enlisted the help of an African-American-owned advertising firm, Burrell Communications, which is headed by two black women.

Sen. Bernie Sanders’ African-American Staff

Sen. Bernie Sanders also has many African Americans on his staff. 

Christopher Smith is Sanders’ deputy national field director, and Nick Carter is his national deputy political outreach director. Symone Sanders is the face of the campaign as Sanders’ national press secretary. Marcus Ferrell is Sanders’ director, African-American outreach; his deputy is Roy Tatem. Sanders also has a senior adviser for African-American outreach: Donni Turner. 

Aneesa McMillan is the communications director, South Carolina.

Sanders has four African-American state directors. His Alabama state director is Kelvin Datcher; his Georgia state director is LaDawn Blackett Jones. The Kansas state director is Brooklynne Mosley, and Sanders’ North Carolina state director is Aisha Dew.  

Sanders has a national HBCU outreach director, Danny D. Glover (not the actor). Christale Spain is Sanders’ state primary director for South Carolina.


Sanders also has several key African Americans assigned in key primary states. Alex Askew is Sanders’ political director in South Carolina; Paul Stovall is the national advance lead for the Sanders campaign; Michele Gilliam is a constituency director for New Hampshire; Electra Skrzydlewski is the deputy outreach director for Nevada; and Angie Nixon is the director of community organizing, South Carolina.  

African Americans on Republican Campaigns

Even though most African Americans who are players in the 2016 race for the White House are working for Democrats, there are several power players in key positions on GOP campaigns.  


Katrina Pierson is in a prominent role as national spokesperson for billionaire real estate mogul and reality TV star Donald Trump. (In 2014, Pierson challenged Rep. Pete Sessions [R-Texas] for Congress but was unsuccessful.) Earl Phillip is Trump’s state chair in North Carolina.

Retired neurosurgeon Dr. Ben Carson has well-known political operative and TV personality Armstrong Williams on his campaign staff as an adviser and business manager. Even though Carson has experienced a recent staff shakeup, Deana Bass remains his national press secretary. Shermichael Singleton started as the Carson campaign’s coalitions adviser in November.

Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush has political veteran Kay Cole James as his campaign co-chair for Virginia and Charles Badger as his director of coalitions.  


Sen. Rand Paul, who is known for being ahead of most Democrats on justice-reform issues, has political veteran Elroy Sailor as a senior adviser and C.J. Sailor as a political operative in Iowa.  

As the 2016 campaign finally reaches the point when voters will make their decisions for the first time in the 2016 cycle, it will be interesting to see who among the power players above will be using their power in the White House a year from now.

Editor's Note: The Root reached out to Martin O'Malley's campaign for their list of African American staffers, but the campaign failed to respond by the time of this article's posting.


Lauren Victoria Burke is a Washington, D.C.-based political reporter who writes the Crew of 42 blog. She appears regularly on NewsOne Now with Roland Martin on TV One. Follow her on Twitter