Joe Biden’s campaign names first Texas hires for general election

Democratic presidential candidate and former Vice President Joe Biden speaks during a campaign stop in Dallas on Monday, March 2, 2020. (Cooper Neill for The Texas Tribune)

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Joe Biden's campaign is naming its first hires for the general election in Texas, where polls continue to show a close contest between the presumptive Democratic nominee and President Donald Trump.

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Biden's state director will be Rebecca Acuña, a veteran of the Texas Capitol and Democratic campaigns in the state. The deputy state director will be Jennifer Longoria, who led Elizabeth Warren's campaign in Texas during the primary. Biden's communications director in the state will be Tariq Thowfeek, a former Texas Democratic Party spokesman who has since worked for Facebook.

The team also includes two advisers who were involved early with Biden's campaign in Texas during the primary. Mike Collier, the 2018 nominee for lieutenant governor, will serve as senior adviser, while Jane Hamilton, Biden's Texas state director during the primary, has been named strategic adviser.

The initial round of hires is rounded out by Houston political consultant Shekira Dennis, who will be director of coalitions.

The hires mark another sign of Biden's commitment to Texas as the state increasingly looks like a November battleground. Trump carried the state by 9 percentage points in 2016, which was the smallest margin for a GOP nominee in Texas since 1996. All recent polls indicate the race will be much closer this time, and the Biden campaign has already made some moves to show its interest in the state, including airing its first general-election TV ads in Texas last month.

Trump's campaign has been dismissive of the idea that Texas is competitive this fall, casting doubt on whether Biden will seriously invest in the massive state and calling him ideologically out of step with Texans. During a trip to Midland on Wednesday, Trump predicted Biden would not "do too well Texas," a sentiment he reiterated Sunday on Twitter.

Acuña brings wide experience with Democratic politics in Texas. She has worked for three members of the Texas House, as well as former U.S. Rep. Pete Gallego, D-Alpine, both in his office and on his campaign. In politics, she has also worked for the Texas Democratic Party and was the press secretary for Wendy Davis' 2014 gubernatorial campaign. Acuña most recently was director of government affairs for PepsiCo.

“Rebecca Acuña and I have worked together to pass instrumental legislation to help our community, so I am thrilled that my friend will lead the Biden Texas campaign in a time when we are fighting for emergency resources that our families need and what all Texans deserve," said state Rep. Victoria Neave of Dallas, for whom Acuña was chief of staff.

In addition to announcing the Texas hires Monday, Biden's campaign is launching digital ads to mark the one-year anniversary of the El Paso shooting. The spots, which are running in El Paso and elsewhere, highlight remarks that Biden gave shortly after the shooting that tied Trump's rhetoric on illegal immigration to the gunman's manifesto that had railed against a "Hispanic invasion of Texas."

The ads, which are running with both English and Spanish captions, are part of a national seven-figure investment by the campaign in Latino paid media.

Disclosure: Facebook and PepsiCo have been financial supporters of The Texas Tribune, a nonprofit, nonpartisan news organization that is funded in part by donations from members, foundations and corporate sponsors. Financial supporters play no role in the Tribune’s journalism. Find a complete list of them here.

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