Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden. | Charlie Neibergall/AP Photo
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Joe Biden on Monday announced the members of his senior leadership team in Florida, a must-win state where he holds a commanding lead over President Donald Trump.
Biden named Jackie Lee, veteran Orlando-based consultant who has been working for the campaign since October 2019, as his state director. Lee, who helped the campaign regain its balance after huge a primary loss in Iowa, is credited with fending off a $30 million Florida ad blitz from billionaire Mike Bloomberg’s short-lived presidential campaign. Lee had a leadership role on both of former President Barack Obama’s campaigns, and helped with the passage of Amendment 4, a nationally watched Florida ballot measure that in 2018 created a pathway for people with felony convictions to regain their voting rights.
Brandon Thompson will work as the Biden campaigns coordinated director. He is coming from Organizing Together 2020, a key player in the Democrat’s 2020 Florida ground game effort. The organization — chaired by Florida Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried, the state’s only statewide elected Democrat — is building operations in 30 of Florida’s 67 counties. Thompson served as the operation‘s top staffer after working on the failed presidential bid of Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.).
Florida Democratic Party executive director Juan Peñalosa was named a Biden senior adviser, though the presidential race has already been an all-hands-on-deck focus for the party he leads. Karen Andre, an attorney who comes from Organizing Together 2020, was also named a senior adviser. Her resume includes working for 2018 Florida Democratic gubernatorial nominee Andrew Gillum’s successful primary campaign.
“We are thrilled to bring together some of the most talented and experienced minds in Florida Democratic politics to oversee a Florida operation that will reflect the state’s diversity and prioritize the issues Floridians care about,” Jenn Ridder, Biden’s national states director, said in a statement. “We look forward to competing aggressively in the Sunshine State, and Jackie, Juan, Brandon and Karen will lead the team that will turn Florida blue and help send Joe Biden to the White House.”
The campaign is also expected to bring on a national faith outreach director in the near future. . Biden has consistently topped Trump in public polling in Florida, a state the president narrowly won by 113,000 votes in 2016. Real Clear Politics average of Florida polls has Biden leading Trump 48-43, numbers that include an outlier Trafalgar Group poll that had the race tied in the state.
There is no real path forward to reelection for Trump without winning Florida, a reality that adds to the sense of urgency for both campaigns in the nation’s largest swing state.
To try and help right the ship, Trump last week made his own staffing splash, re-hiring Susie Wiles, a veteran Florida GOP consultant who led the president’s 2016 Florida campaign. That hire came even as Wiles was elbowed out of the orbit of Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, a top Trump ally.