Kamala Harris picks up key Iowa hire before CNN town hall

(CNN) — As she makes her first visit to Iowa as an official presidential candidate to participate in a CNN town hall Monday night, Democratic presidential contender Kamala Harris snapped up a key hire for her campaign — naming Deidre DeJear as her campaign chair in the Hawkeye state.

Last fall, Harris campaigned for DeJear, a popular figure in the state who narrowly lost her bid to become Iowa’s Secretary of State in November. Harris traveled with DeJear around the state as she traversed the country seeking to boost the fortunes of female candidates in congressional and down-ballot races.

The California senator nailed down DeJear’s support at a time when there is intense competition for political talent among the 2020 hopefuls in Iowa and other early state contests like New Hampshire and South Carolina.

Several of Harris’ rivals were actively courting DeJear. Earlier this month, DeJear appeared on stage with Elizabeth Warren during the Massachusetts’ senator’s recent visit to Ankeny, Iowa.

Harris arrived in Iowa Sunday night hours after the official launch of her campaign in her birthplace of Oakland, which drew thousands of people to her rally in front of Oakland’s City Hall.

She will face questions from Iowa voters for the first time as an official candidate in a town hall moderated by CNN’s Jake Tapper Monday night. The event airs live from Drake University at 10 p.m. ET.

On Monday, Harris will also name Democratic operative Will Dubbs to lead her organizing effort for the Iowa Caucuses, which are slated for early February of next year.

Dubbs was Hillary Clinton’s regional organizing director in Iowa in 2016. During the 2018 cycle, he organized the Democrats’ coordinated campaign in Pennsylvania, and was involved previously in Democratic organizing efforts in New Hampshire.

Harris made a strong debut in Iowa last fall shortly after being widely praised by Democrats for her tough questioning of then-Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, who had been accused of sexually assaulting Christine Blasey Ford while they were both in high school. Kavanaugh denied the allegations and was confirmed to the Supreme Court.

Many of the women who attended Harris’ events told her about their own experiences with sexual assault and said that she had spoken for them during the hearings.

While other potential 2020 contenders like Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders are better known in Iowa, Harris plans to compete there and in the first-in-the-nation primary state of New Hampshire.

Her campaign hopes to build enough momentum to head to a strong finish in the first-in-the-south primary of South Carolina, where her allies hope she can consolidate the black vote that dominates the Democratic primary electorate.

Because of her strong advocacy for immigration reform and a pathway to citizenship for the so-called “Dreamers,” Harris also hopes to build support in Nevada, her neighboring state, and her home state of California (which will begin mailing out ballots on Feb. 3, the same day as the Iowa caucus).

Because of her potential with black voters, her advisors hope she can notch a series of delegate wins in the southeastern states that are scheduled for March of 2020 including Alabama, North Carolina, Tennessee, Mississippi and Louisiana.

CNN’s town hall with Harris will be the first of the 2020 season. CNN held town halls with Clinton and her fellow Democratic candidates, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders and former Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley during the 2016 presidential cycle.

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