Clinton’s Minority Staff Members Struggle To Be Known
NEW YORK (AP) _ Some black Democrats are complaining that the selection of Al Gore as Bill Clinton’s running mate, plus his reliance on a largely white, male campaign hierarchy, deepens the perception of a narrow Democratic ticket.
″Two nice-looking white boys; it doesn’t look like all of America to me,″ said Rep. Charles Rangel, D-N.Y.
″They have to put people in at high levels of the campaign,″ added Rep. Edolphus Towns, D-N.Y.
Clinton’s top advisers are white men: Chairman Mickey Kantor, Campaign Manager David Wilhelm, Communications Director George Stephanopoulos, strategists Paul Begala and James Carville and Chief of Staff Eli Segal.
But, as Clinton aides were quick to point out, a sizable number of not-so- famous staffers are not.
There’s Betsey Wright, who was a chief of staff for the Arkansas governor and now leads the counterattack against Republican diatribes against Clinton.
Mandy Grunwald, also skilled in rough-and-tumble politics, is a joint partner in the media firm putting together Clinton’s ads. Stephanie Solien is political director, acting as a liaison to labor, environmental and abortion rights groups.
In addition, both of Clinton’s top press aides are women - Dee Dee Myers and Avis LaVelle, who is black.
Clinton also has hired Wendy Smith, trip director; Rodney Slater, adviser and Carol Willis, a field operative, all of whom are black.
Jose Villarreal, an Hispanic, joined up six weeks ago as a deputy campaign manager.
Villarreal, who worked on Michael Dukakis’ 1988 campaign, said the two operations are light years apart.
″I felt like the lone ranger in 1988,″ Villarreal said, noting that as a top aide running the effort in the Southwest, he never met with Dukakis’ upper echelon. This time, he’s at the table for high-level meetings on targeting states and other strategic decisions, he said.
″Look, I wouldn’t have left to go be a token,″ said Villarreal, adding that he took a huge pay cut from his law practice in San Antonio and moved to Little Rock, Ark., leaving his wife and daughter behind.
Myers blamed the media for focusing so much on the top white male staffers and complained that reporters tend to pay more attention to men.
She noted that LaVelle was hired after she was and ″if she had been a man, everyone would have believed I was bigfooted and they would have talked to her - him. That’s the way the world works,″ she said.
Rahm Emanuel, who is white, gets all the ink for heading up the campaign’s money efforts, but there’s another top fund-raiser, Amy Zisook, whom few people know about, Myers said.
″She doesn’t get as much attention, but that’s not our fault,″ Myers said.
″You earn Bill Clinton’s ear by doing your homework,″ she said. ″Clinton doesn’t listen to George Stephanopoulos because he’s short, white, Greek, brunette, male, Capricorn or whatever astrological sign he is.″