“Let’s finish the job!” With that slogan, Joe Biden (80) announced that he would run for a second term as president of the United States in 2024. Should help him stay in the saddle: his new campaign manager Julie Chavez Rodriguez, a woman with a remarkable family history and already the most influential Latina in the White House.
Julie Chavez Rodriguez, 45, is the granddaughter of Cesar Chavez (1927-1993), a Mexican-American trade union leader and civil rights activist who fought for decades for better working conditions and more social rights for farm workers from the 1950s. Today Cesar Chavez Day (March 31) is even an official holiday in many states, and Joe Biden is a great admirer of the man: he has had a bust of Chavez in the Oval Office since his first day as US president.
Her grandfather’s activism seems to run in Julie Chavez Rodriguez’s blood. Growing up in a community of farm workers, her family took her to demonstrations and community work in California’s Central Valley, where she lived. “I always thought I had a normal upbringing,” Chavez Rodriguez told the NBC news network, “until I started college and realized how atypical she was.” According to The New York Times, she was even arrested when she was nine years old while handing out flyers about the dangers of pesticides outside a convenience store. “When I was 12, I could name the five most harmful pesticides,” she wrote.
After graduating, Chavez Rodriguez built an impressive resume. First as director of the Cesar Chavez Foundation, but in 2008, when the Democrats seized power in the US again with the election of Barack Obama, she dived into politics. “When I first heard President Obama speak, I heard my grandfather’s legacy in him. He had that same attitude. So I just had to be part of his cabinet,” said Chavez Rodriguez.
During her years in Washington, Chavez Rodriguez worked in various departments, including the Interior, before becoming President Obama’s special assistant. In 2016, she went to work for current Vice President Kamala Harris, first in their home state of California, where Harris was Attorney General. Later, when Kamala Harris ran for president, Chavez Rodriguez became a key player on her campaign team.
Harris withdrew her candidate in the Democratic primary but became Joe Biden’s running mate and then US Vice President. As a result, Julie Chavez Rodriguez was also able to make the switch to Washington again. She became director of the Department of Intergovernmental Affairs and senior adviser to the president, making her the highest-ranking person of Latino descent in the White House today. Not bad for someone who, in his own words, “never dreamed of ending up in the White House”.
Her new job as campaign manager promises to be challenging, if only because of the president’s age. When Joe Biden took office in January 2021, he was the oldest president the United States has ever known. He will be 82 at the start of his possible second term.