Joe Biden turns focus to Wisconsin with battle-tested hires

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FILE - In this June 17, 2020, file photo, Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden speaks during a meeting with small business owners in Yeadon, Pa. Biden is turning to a quartet of experienced Wisconsin political operatives to lead his campaign in a state that helped deliver President Donald Trump his Electoral College majority four years ago. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum, File)

Presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden is turning to a quartet of experienced Wisconsin political operatives to lead his campaign in a state that helped deliver President Donald Trump an Electoral College majority four years ago.

The former vice president’s campaign unveiled the team to The Associated Press on Wednesday, a day ahead of Trump's planned visit to the state. Wisconsin, where Trump won by fewer than 23,000 votes in 2016, joins newly emerging battleground Arizona as the first two states where Biden has named his campaign team.

Two veterans of Sen. Tammy Baldwin’s successful 2018 reelection campaign will run Biden’s Wisconsin operation. Danielle Melfi, who was Baldwin’s political engagement chief, is Biden’s new state director. Scott Spector, who managed Baldwin’s campaign, will serve Biden as senior adviser.

Garren Randolph will be Melfi’s deputy. He served as political director for Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers’ 2018 victory over then-incumbent Scott Walker, a Republican whom Democrats had tried twice before to knock out of office.

Shirley Ellis, a longtime adviser to U.S. Rep. Gwen Moore, will join Biden team as a strategic adviser focused on Milwaukee. She currently runs Moore’s district staff and is helping plan the Democratic National Convention in Milwaukee. She will join Biden’s campaign formally after the August convention, according to the campaign.

Baldwin praised the team as “some of the best Democratic talent Wisconsin has to offer,” and she singled out Melfi and Spector for “unparalleled knowledge” of how to win in the closely divided state.

Democrats’ Wisconsin operation will be based in Milwaukee. Randolph and Ellis are Black and will play key roles in the city, where a large portion of the state’s Black population lives.

The latest announcements are part of the battleground rollout that campaign manager Jen O’Malley Dillon has promised for weeks. Top Biden advisers said they’ve intentionally recruited state leadership teams with previous relevant success.