Trump lags Biden on people of color in top campaign ranks

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FILE - In this June 17, 2020, file photo Democratic presidential candidate, former Vice President Joe Biden pauses while speaking, in Darby, Pa. Amid a summer of racial unrest and calls for more diversity in leadership, President Donald Trump lags Democratic rival Joe Biden in the percentage of people of color on their campaign staffs, according to data the campaigns provided to The Associated Press. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum, File)

WASHINGTON – Amid a summer of racial unrest and calls for more diversity in leadership, President Donald Trump lags Democratic rival Joe Biden in the percentage of people of color on their campaign staffs, according to data the campaigns provided to The Associated Press.

Twenty-five percent of the Republican president's senior staff are nonwhite, compared to 36% of Biden’s senior staff. Biden’s overall campaign team is 35% nonwhite; Trump’s campaign did not provide a comparable number.

And neither campaign provided racial breakdowns for their nonwhite staff, nor the total number of staffers who are on their payrolls, including senior staff.

Advocates for minority groups say staff diversity is necessary to ensure political candidates hear a full range of voices and viewpoints to help them understand the concerns of various communities and interest groups — especially at a time when racial injustice is front and center in the national conversation. And while Biden has an edge on Trump, there is plenty more to be done in presidential campaigns overall.

Jennifer Lawless, commonwealth professor of politics at the University of Virginia, said “there are still a lot of milestones that haven’t been hit” by political campaigns, such as a Black man or woman directing — and winning — a presidential campaign. And she said having diverse staff at lower levels in campaigns can help increase the pool of future managers, finance chairs and others.

“It’s all part of the pipeline,” Lawless said.

Trump's campaign makeup got a double-take in June when Vice President Mike Pence tweeted — and later deleted — a photo from his visit to campaign headquarters. The photo at first drew attention for the lack of social distancing and use of face masks among the staff. But it also was notable for the sea of mostly white faces.

Eric Rodriguez, senior vice president of policy and advocacy at UnidosUS, said the Biden team had more Latinos in senior positions than Trump.