DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — Sen. Bernie Sanders has hired four key Iowa staffers and three veterans in New Hampshire, building out a team of old and new staff as he makes his second Democratic bid for president.
The Iowa team, in particular, showcases the Vermont senator's emphasis on grassroots organizing and an effort to diversify his staff following allegations of sexism and sexual harassment against some of Sanders' top 2016 staffers.
Leading the team is Misty Rebik, Sanders' Iowa state director. She previously worked on LGBTQ rights and education advocacy for One Iowa, an LGBTQ advocacy organization, and served as a regional director for Planned Parenthood, where she created the organization's first transgender care program in Iowa. In 2018, Rebik worked as campaign manager for Democratic gubernatorial candidate Cathy Glasson, a union leader who embraced Sanders' progressive policy priorities in her failed bid.
Another new addition is Jess Mazour, who will serve as Sanders' political director. Mazour was most recently lead organizer on the farm and environment team at Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement, a progressive advocacy group, and was a Sanders delegate in 2016. Her hire underscores the emphasis on rural issues that the senator has made a focus of his 2020 bid as he hopes to defeat President Donald Trump.
"I've spent over six years organizing grassroots rural Iowans impacted by factory farming, corporate agriculture, and other rural issues in parts of the state that went for Trump in 2016," Mazour said in a statement. "It's clear Iowans want clean water, health care, living wages for workers and fair prices for farmers."
Sanders has also brought back Evan Burger to serve as his Iowa caucus director and Pete D'Alessandro to serve as a senior adviser to his team. Both worked on Sanders' 2016 campaign, Burger as the senator's advance director and D'Alessandro as his campaign coordinator. Burger most recently worked for Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement as a senior organizer, while D'Alessandro made a failed bid for Congress last cycle.
The returning hires are notable, as many of Sanders' 2016 staffers have been snapped up by other Democratic presidential hopefuls. At least three of his 2016 Iowa campaign staff, including his former caucus director, Brendan Summers, went to other campaigns, while other staffers don't plan to return to politics this cycle.
Sanders' previous state director, Robert Becker, was dismissed after being accused of sexual assault by a former staffer, an allegation he denied. Becker was just one of a number of high-profile Sanders staffers accused of improper behavior during the 2016 campaign, and a number of former staffers signed a letter requesting a meeting with Sanders to discuss what they said was "sexual violence and harassment on the campaign," according to Politico . The senator publicly apologized, and his campaign now has protocols intended to address some of the issues that staffers faced in 2016.
Sanders recently made his first swing through the state as an official candidate, drawing hundreds of fans for three rallies across Iowa. His team said Sanders enters the Democratic primary race in a stronger position than 2016 — when he orchestrated a surprise second-place finish in the caucuses that catapulted his campaign to national prominence — and facing more scrutiny, as a top-tier candidate.
In New Hampshire, three veterans of Sanders' 2016 run joined his 2020 campaign there. Sanders won the New Hampshire primary by 22 points in 2016.
Joe Caiazzo will be the state director for Sanders after working as the Rhode Island state director for Hillary Clinton's 2016 general election campaign. Carli Stevenson, a seasoned New Hampshire politico, will be the deputy state director and communications director for the campaign.
The campaign has also retained Kurt Ehrenberg as its New Hampshire senior adviser. Ehrenberg was the New Hampshire state director for the unsuccessful effort to get Sen. Elizabeth Warren to run for president in 2016. He then became the New Hampshire political director for Sanders during his 2016 presidential campaign.
Associated Press writer Hunter Woodall in Concord, N.H., contributed to this report.