The chief of staff for Sen. Kamala Harris is leaving his post to work in an advisory role at her political action committee, a sign that the California Democrat may be preparing to launch a 2020 presidential bid.
Harris announced the departure of Nathan Barankin on Tuesday, the Sacramento Bee reported. Rohini Kosoglu, currently Harris’ deputy chief of staff, will serve as Barankin’s replacement.
“Rohini has been an invaluable leader on our team as we’ve fought for our shared values and the best of who we are as a country during these first two years,” said Harris, who won her election to succeed Sen. Barbara Boxer in 2016. “I also want to thank Nathan for his service, he is a trusted adviser who has been essential to building a team here in Washington that continues to fight for the interests of Californians.”
Barankin will join Harris’s Fearless for the People PAC. A veteran of California politics, Barankin has deep ties to Democrats in Sacramento. He previously served as the top aide to Bill Lockyer when he was state Senate president pro tempore and then attorney general.
Barankin first worked for Harris in 2011 when she was state attorney general as her chief of staff and then as her deputy chief attorney general.
Harris is expected to join what will most likely be a crowded Democratic field for 2020. During this year's midterm elections, she raised more than $2 million for her PAC – donating around $400,000 of that to other Democratic candidates.
She said she will make her decision about running for president after the holidays.
Another longtime Harris aide, Larry Wallace, resigned earlier this month after the Bee asked Harris about a 2017 settlement with a former employee who accused him of gender harassment while they both served in the California Department of Justice.
The lawsuit filed by Danielle Hartley in 2016 was settled for $400,000 after Harris, a big supporter of the #MeToo movement, hired Wallace as her senior adviser in her Sacramento field office.
“We were unaware of this issue and take accusations of harassment extremely seriously,” Harris spokeswoman Lily Adams said in response to an inquiry by the newspaper. “This evening, Mr. Wallace offered his resignation to the senator, and she accepted it.
But some questioned Harris's claim that she was unaware of the allegations after a report from the Equal Employment Rights and Resolution Office, which administers the issues concerning discrimination at the state DOJ. That report said her department was alerted in October 2016 that Hartley would pursue legal action.
“No one is buying Kamala Harris’s claim she didn’t know her top aide of 14 yrs was accused of sexual harassment, resulting in a $400K settlement,” GOP Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel wrote in a Twitter message.
Harris left the state DOJ several months later to serve in the U.S. Senate.
Dan Schnur, who served as communications director for the late U.S. Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., and former California Gov. Pete Wilson, has questioned Harris’s reaction to harassment allegations against Wallace.
Schnur noted that Harris was vocal in her opposition to Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh amid sexual misconduct allegations against him during his confirmation hearings to the court.
“But when her longtime colleague and adviser Larry Wallace resigned from his position in her Senate office after the Bee reported taxpayers had paid a $400,000 harassment and retaliation settlement, Harris was more circumspect,” Schnur wrote in an opinion piece for the Bee. “But Harris is considering a run for president, and the level of media scrutiny that will be directed toward her if she does decide to run will be like nothing she has experienced as a statewide candidate or elected official."