By Frederick H. Lowe
U.S. Senators who represent states with significant black populations have people of color in top and mid-level positions but not many African Americans, according to a report by the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies, a Washington, D.C. -based non-partisan public policy organization.
Of the 147 top-level positions held by Democrats in the U.S. Senate, only three are held by blacks, representing 2 percent of all top positions compared to 1 percent in 2015.
Though African Americans represent 13.4 percent of the nation’s population, they account for 23 percent of Democratic voters, according to the study which is based on a report by Senate Democrats titled “2018 Senate Democratic Caucus Demographic Data.”
The Joint Center said Senators Tim Kaine (Virginia), Bob Casey (Pennsylvania), Richard Blumenthal (Connecticut), Chris Murphy (Connecticut), Jack Reed (Rhode Island) and Amy Klobuchar (Minnesota) don’t have any black staffers in mid-level or top-level positions.
Kaine was Hillary Clinton’s vice-presidential candidate in the 2016 presidential election and he took a great deal of pride bragging that he was a member of a black church in Virginia.
Ben Cardin of Maryland has not hired a black person in a top staff position and employs only one black person in a mid-level position, although the Maryland’s population is 31 percent black.
Democratic U.S. senators have increased their hiring of blacks and other people of color for top-level and mid-level positions but not by very much compared to 2017, according to a report released by Senate Democrats.
“Compared to last year, the report showed only a slight increase in the number of non-white Democratic staffers across 49 Senate personnel offices and 19 Senate Committees,” reported the Joint Center. “The release of the data, while disappointing, is a critical step towards diversifying Capitol Hill staff.”
Of the 49 Democratic Senate personal offices, 29 reported an increase in the number of staff who identify as non-white, 16 reported a decrease and four remain unchanged. In more than half of the offices, the change was not substantial (less than 5 percent), the Joint Center reported.
Senators Chris Coons (Delaware), Robert Menendez (New Jersey), Casey, Joseph Donnelly (Indiana), Sheldon Whitehouse (Rhode Island) and Tammy Baldwin (Wisconsin) represent states with large populations of people of color but their senate staffs lack any mid-level or top-level staffers of color, the report stated.
Senator’s Tom Carper staff is comprised of 46 percent people of color but none are in mid-level or top-level positions. Carper represents Delaware.
Of the 19 U.S. Senate Committees, eight committees increased the number of Democratic staffers of color, seven committees reported a decrease and four remained unchanged, the study reported.
Democratic Senators with the most diverse staffs include Senators Kamala Harris (California), Cory Booker (New Jersey), Kirsten Gillibrand (New York), Doug Jones (Alabama), Mark Warner (Virginia), Sherrod Brown (Ohio) and Elizabeth Warren (Massachusetts).
People of color comprise 66 percent of Harris’s mid-level and top positions including four African Americans. Harris and Booker and Tim Scott, a South Carolina Republican, are the three African-Americans in the Senate. Republicans did not release data concerning their hiring of non-white staffers.
Only Senator Jones has a black chief of staff. Dianne Feinstein and Harris have legislative directors that are African American. No Democratic Senator has a black communications director.
Senator Brian Schatz of Hawaii has assembled the most diverse staff. Some 72 percent of his staff are people of color.
“We all know that the U.S. Senate has a problem with a lack of diversity in top-level positions,” said Spencer Overton, president of the Joint Center. “The mid-level positions are often feeder positions to the leadership positions.”