When President Biden announced his intention to seek re-election last Tuesday in a short, three-minute video, he also revealed his campaign team. His new campaign manager will be Julie Chavez Rodriguez, who was a deputy campaign manager on the Biden-Harris 2020 run. It will be her first time in charge of a campaign, which she will head up from Wilmington, Delaware. She will be the first Latina to lead a major party presidential campaign.
A family legacy of change
The 45-year-old Chavez Rodriguez is the granddaughter of legendary organized labor icon Cesar Chavez whose parents involved her in organizing from a young age — as a 9-year-old she says she was arrested at a protest while handing out fliers in New Jersey. She received her B.S. in Latin American Studies from the University of California-Berkeley while spending the summers working for the AFL-CIO (where her mother Linda Chavez Rodriguez was an executive vice president). She also helped organize strawberry pickers in California for the United Farm Workers, where her father, Arturo Rodriguez, was the president. That long campaign culminated in success when pickers signed their first union contract in 2001.
A longtime White House aide, Chavez Rodriguez served as special assistant to the president and senior deputy director of public engagement in the Office of Public Engagement under former President Barack Obama, after working in the Department of the Interior. She later served as the California state director for then-Sen. Kamala Harris before joining Harris's short-lived presidential campaign in 2019. Chavez Rodriguez joined the Biden campaign as a senior adviser in May 2020 after months of insider recriminations about the campaign's outreach to Latinos and fears that Biden would under-perform with this critical group.
She is currently the senior adviser and assistant to the president and director of the White House Office of Intergovernmental Affairs — an executive office that serves as liaison and coordinator between the White House and state, county, local, and tribal governments. New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy (D) told The Washington Post that it's "an enormous job, incredibly complex, that she's done really well for 2½ years." The position took on additional importance and complexity as the Biden administration rolled out COVID-19 vaccines in 2021 and battled the pandemic in conjunction with state and local officials.
An 'unflappable' behind-the-scenes organizer
Chavez Rodriguez appears to be highly regarded by Democratic elites, who praise her organizational skills and ability to stay above the fray of political infighting. Cristóbal Alex, another senior adviser on Biden's 2020 run, referred to her as "an honest broker" in an interview with The New York Times. Valerie Jarrett, a senior adviser to former President Obama during his time in the White House, said that Chavez Rodriguez has "an ego-less quality, which is, let's say, unusual oftentimes in high levels." In an interview with Yahoo News, former White House chief of staff Ron Klain and senior Biden adviser said that "She's great as a leader, and she's great as a manager." An unnamed Harris campaign staffer said that Chavez Rodriguez is "unflappable and constantly focused on the task at hand." A search for negative appraisals of Chavez Rodriguez's skills would be in vain.
President Biden, who has kept a bust of Cesar Chavez on his desk throughout his presidency, will need a keen strategist heading the campaign. Assuming he secures the Democratic nomination, he will be by far the oldest person ever to secure a major-party nomination, and he will battle either former President Donald Trump or another Republican nominee in an election that is perceived to have enormous stakes for the future of American democracy. As campaign manager, Chavez Rodriguez will be tasked with coordinating the various aspects of a presidential campaign, including fundraising, strategy, media relations, and staffing.