Senate Democrats are facing growing pressure to break the white male stranglehold on senior staff positions in their ranks — a push that’s uniting consultants and lobbyists inside the Beltway with Black Lives Matter and other minority leaders who are accusing the party of “soft bigotry.”
… Now, activists are shaming Senate Democrats, noting that the chamber’s only African-American chief of staff works for Republican Sen. Tim Scott. And civil rights groups are holding a public conference call on Thursday to escalate their campaign for more diverse hiring by newly elected senators.
It’s not just the chief of staff disparity — minorities are under-represented throughout the ranks of Senate staffers. African-Americans and Latinos represent more than a third of self-identified Democrats nationwide but hold less than 3 percent of senior staff positions for Senate Democrats, according to a report last year by the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies.
But it’s Democrats, not Republicans, who bear the brunt of the increasingly vocal push for change from both former aides on K Street and civil rights groups. Clinton had enlisted multiple advisers of color in her transition preparations before her Election Day loss, stoking fears that diversity-hiring progress nurtured by Obama could be lost under Trump.
“The problem is quite pronounced, and frankly, people need to be called out for it,” another ex-Senate Democratic staffer said, calling it “embarrassing” that only two Latinas, and one African-American, hold senior staff positions. In fact, no statistics are completely up-to-date because offices are not required to report on staff diversity.
… And when Cortez Masto tapped only one Hispanic in her initial rollout of seven senior staffers, immigration activist and Bernie Sanders adviser Erika Andiola took notice. “Oh, look at all those Latinas she hired in her senior staff! A grand total of … 0,” Andiola, who now works for Sanders’ Our Revolution group, posted on Facebook. …
The draft bill creating a chief diversity officer, however, also would require offices to report their hiring statistics … A senior aide to one Democratic senator said that “the idea has merit” but questioned the wisdom of pitching the diversity legislation while the party remains in the minority.