Cory Booker announces key staff hires in early nominating states after launching 2020 Democratic bid

Booker names state directors in the make-or-break states of Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina

Published February 4, 2019 12:26PM (EST)

Sen. Cory Booker announces his presidential bid during a press conference on February 1, 2019 in Newark, New Jersey. (Getty/Eduardo Munoz Alvarez)
Sen. Cory Booker announces his presidential bid during a press conference on February 1, 2019 in Newark, New Jersey. (Getty/Eduardo Munoz Alvarez)

Days after Cory Booker threw his hat into the 2020 presidential race, the New Jersey senator announced key staff hires, bringing on seasoned political operatives to lead his campaign in some of the U.S. states that can make or break a candidate's White House ambitions.

Booker has named state directors in the early nominating states of Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina. Mike Frosolone will lead Booker's efforts in Iowa; Frosolone served as the director of Iowa House Democrats' political operation, recruiting nearly 100 Democratic candidates to run in the House's 100 districts. Erin Turmelle will helm Booker's campaign in New Hampshire, where she oversaw the state party's 2018 midterm election efforts. Christale Spain will oversee the campaign's efforts in South Carolina, where she worked in political outreach for Sen. Bernie Sanders' (I-Vt.) 2016 presidential campaign and has served as an executive director of the state Democratic Party.

The campaign also named senior advisors in each state. Joe O'Hern, whose resume includes work for the Iowa Democratic Party in 2014 and as Martin O'Malley's caucus director during the 2016 election cycle, will fill the post in the Hawkeye State. Tess Seger, a former communications director for the Iowa Democratic Party, will also join Booker's Iowa team as communications director and press secretary. Former Obama campaign deputy director Sean Downey will join the team in New Hampshire, while Clay Middleton, a longtime aide to House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn and Hillary Clinton’s 2016 state director, will fill the post in South Carolina.

Booker joined what is expected to be a very crowded and diverse list of Democratic candidates that already includes California Sen. Kamala Harris (the first Indian-American woman to serve in the upper chamber), Hawaii Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (the first and only Hindu elected to Congress) and former secretary of Housing and Urban Development Julián Castro (Latino). In addition, fellow Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-VT.) Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) have noted their Oval Office ambitions. Former Vice President Joe Biden, former Rep. Beto O'Rourke, who fell short in his campaign against Republican Sen. Ted Cruz in the Texas Senate race during the 2018 midterm election cycle, and South Bend mayor Pete Buttigieg, who is openly gay, have also hinted that they are weighing a White House bids — and these names are far from the complete list.

Booker plans to visit the crucial early presidential primary states. He will head to Iowa the weekend of Feb. 9, then to South Carolina and New Hampshire over the following week, according to his campaign. His trip to South Carolina is expected to overlap with Gillibrand, who is making her second visit to the state as a presidential candidate around the same time. Booker plans to visit New Hampshire over Presidents' Day weekend.

The Iowa caucuses will take place in less than a year — on Feb. 3, 2020.

By Shira Tarlo

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