Politico

New Virginia PAC forms to diversify state's political landscape


An Obama White House alum has formed a political action committee aimed at diversifying state and local campaigns in Virginia.

The Virginia People’s PAC, launched Wednesday, was created by Nick Rathod, a Virginia-based political consultant and Deputy Director of Intergovernmental Affairs under President Obama. Its goal is to recruit and train people of color for senior-level staffing roles on political campaigns. Angela Kasey, a Senate campaign staffer who worked on campaigns for Tim Kaine, Kamala Harris and Jon Ossoff, will serve as the PAC’s executive director.

The PAC does not plan to make any immediate endorsements in the state’s upcoming gubernatorial primary. Instead, Rathod said, he and the group’s leadership team are focused on diversifying candidates’ top staffs.

As Rathod sees it, these are “the candidates most receptive to diversity in their staffing, not only within the campaign, but if they become governor, how are they going to staff — especially at cabinet and senior level positions — [with aides] that are more reflective of the diversity of the commonwealth,” he said.

Lack of diversity within campaigns has been a longstanding issue in both Democratic and Republican politics. While the 2020 cycle saw a historically diverse number of women and racial minorities pursue public office, those managing their races did not reflect the sea change. People of color represent less than 1 percent of all political consultants. There are also a number of structural barriers to entry — long hours, low pay an exclusive networks — that make it more difficult for potential staffers of color to join campaigns.

It’s part of the reason why both Rathod and Kasey formed the PAC, which also includes a fellowship program they hope will create a corps of young political operatives of color who can quickly join a campaign or governors’ office in a top position.

“Most of the time, on campaigns and in politics in general, these positions go to people who already know people in their organizations, and so it leaves a lot of people out,” Kasey said. “We want to create networks of support.”

The group is launching in the heat of Virginia’s crowded and diverse gubernatorial primary. Three Black Democrats, Jennifer McClellan, Jennifer Carroll Foy and Justin Fairfax all announced plans to run, as has former governor Terry McAuliffe, who is the highest-fundraising candidate in the race thus far.

Their ultimate goal, Kasey said, is for the state’s political landscape to become so diverse that groups like theirs are obsolete.

“There’s sort of two Virginias that are fighting each other right now,” Rathod said, referencing the state’s history of electing the first Black governor in the country juxtaposed against the events of Charlottesville in 2017. “And a lot of the old Virginia still kind of permit permeates the politics in the commonwealth.”

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