Jamal Simmons, Vice President Kamala Harris’ communications director, is leaving her office around a year after his role was announced.
“It was an honor to serve such a historic Vice President,” Simmons said in a statement to CNN. “I’ll be talking about this job for the rest of my life. I won’t miss the hours but I will miss the people.”
Simmons is Harris’ second communications director since she took office as vice president. He replaced Harris’ first communication director Ashley Etienne in January, serving as the first step in a communications overhaul to turn around messaging for the vice president’s second year.
“A little more than a year ago, when I was serving in a different role, I called Jamal and asked him to join [the Office of the Vice President] as Communications Director. Jamal and I have worked together over the years,” Harris’ chief of staff Lorraine Voles told her team on Friday in an email obtained by CNN. “Because of his deep respect for the Vice President, he agreed to come on board for a year. He has built a hard-working, and effective team. “
When Simmons’ hiring was announced earlier this year, the office did not publicly say it was only in a year-long capacity. Still, Voles credited Simmons with helping her “steady the ship.” Harris suffered a tumultuous first year in office, constantly in defense mode following a myriad of reports, including by CNN, of staff infighting, dysfunction and messaging mistakes. Harris has also been the focus of much more scrutiny and spotlight than any other modern day vice president, a reality that often appeared to catch the administration off guard in the beginning of their tenure.
Though the vice president has continued to shed staffers in 2022, aides are quick to reflect on how stable and even successful Harris’ second year in office is compared to the first. Voles outlined ways Simmons helped achieve that outcome, in her staff wide email.
“He has focused on strategic planning, growing the V.P’s digital presence and building relationships with national, regional and constituency media. The results are evident,” she wrote. “The Vice President’s media and digital reach has grown and [the Office of the Vice President] is better able to amplify the work and accomplishments of the Biden-Harris administration.”
Part of that work has been the vice president’s efforts to defend abortion during the midterm election and travel to tout Biden administration accomplishments.
Now with Simmons’ departure, Voles said she is working with the communications team, “to determine next organizational steps,” as the White House prepares for a possible reelection campaign for President Joe Biden who said he intends to run. Harris has said frequently that should Biden run, she would be on the ticket one again as his running mate.
Before joining, Simmons had worked in politics and media for more than two decades, helping elect former Democratic presidents like Bill Clinton and Barack Obama as well as appearing on CNN, NPR, MSNBC and CBS among others. Simmons plans to move to New York with his family, Harris’ chief of staff told her team on Friday.
Politico was first to report his departure.