DPVA Executive Director Lauren Harmon Heads Back to Ohio After Less Than 11 Months on Job

Friday, January 3, 2014

Well, that didn't last long. After being hired as Executive Director of the Democratic Party of Virginia just 11 months ago (in February 2013), Lauren Harmon has now headed back to Ohio. What happened? It's a bit hard to get the details, because many/most people don't want to talk about it, and it also seems a bit odd, after Democrats swept all three statewide offices (in contrast, RPV Chair Pat Mullins stays on, despite presiding over a complete debacle for Governor, Lt. Governor, and Attorney General). However, here are a few tidbits that I've been told.

*According to Democratic insiders, Harmon was "treated really badly here," she was "marginalized," "not allowed to do anything," and made promises that "were never kept." For instance, she "couldn't even fix a fax machine without permission," had "no control over her own budget or anything." Harmon reportedly "felt totally abandoned."

*I'm also told by multiple sources that Harmon was undermined by DPVA Chair Charniele Herring's Chief of Staff, Zachary Rickard, who supposedly also helped recruit Harmon in the first place from Ohio, where they both had served in the state Democratic Party. Whether any of this was with Charniele Herring's knowledge and/or approval is unclear, but I'm told that Herring isn't particularly "hands-on" or engaged/interested in the job, per se (I'm told by multiple sources that she's mostly interested in setting herself up to run for Lt. Governor in 2017).

*More broadly, I've been hearing for a long time, from numerous sources, that DPVA was treated essentially as a wholly-owned subsidiary of the McAuliffe for Governor campaign during 2013, and that its Executive Director, Lauren Harmon, had little/no autonomy, little/no ability to develop relationships or a knowledge set. Given no sign of that changing in 2014, Harmon left - wisely, as far as I can determine. (Note: it would be interesting to know if Harmon was accurately informed as to what her role would be as DPVA Executive Director prior to being hired, or if - as one Dem told me - she was hired under "false pretenses")

Anyway, I'm sorry to see Harmon leave, as I believe she's the type of (talented, enthusiastic, aggressive) leader DPVA needs. I'm also sorry to see that DPVA continues to be treated with little if any respect, not allowed to develop into a strong organization whose #1 goal is to build up Virginia Democrats year in/year out, regardless of the comings and goings of transitory campaigns, candidates, etc. In my view, that's a big mistake, just as it's a mistake not to really work to modernize/overhaul DPVA for the 21st century. Apparently, though, no critical mass among the "powers that be" appears to be in place to do any of that, so here we are...sigh.

P.S. On a related note, another Democratic insider told me, "DPVA will never change until it has a real election for Chair."