State operations manager for Kamala Harris steps down, citing low morale within the campaign

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Kelly Mehlenbacher, former state operations manager for Kamala Harris' campaign, sent a blistering resignation letter painting a picture of low morale among staffers of a seemingly directionless campaign with "no real plan to win" ahead of the crucial Iowa caucus in 2020.

Mehlenbacher's words were corroborated by more than 50 current and former campaign staffers and allies, speaking on the condition that their names nor be revealed, disclosing the campaign's many flaws and tactical errors, from focusing on the wrong states to targeting the wrong candidates, as a frustrated campaign staff draws closer to 2020 Democratic primaries, which at one point counted the California Senator as a likely star.

Ms. Mehlenbacher's letter came a few days after a November staff meeting during which aides pressed campaign manager Juan Rodriguez about strategy and finances after sweeping layoffs ahead of the campaign's movement in Iowa.

"While I still believe Senator Harris is the strongest candidate" in 2020, Ms. Mehlenbacher said, "I have never seen an organization treat its staff so poorly ... I no longer have confidence in our campaign or its leadership. The treatment of our staff over the last two weeks was the final straw."

She said that the campaign staff was from Washington DC to headquarters in Baltimore, Maryland, then laid off without notice only a few days later with no plan for the campaign and "without thoughtful consideration of the personal consequences to them or the consequences that their absence would have on the remaining staff."

In the letter, dated 11 November, Ms Mehlenbacher said that "neither the campaign manager or the chair" had talked with the staff "to explain, apologize or reassure" those who remained.

Others working for the campaign have also criticized Ms. Harris for retreating against Democratic rivals without clear messaging as to whether she straddles the moderate or progressive side of the party's current ideological divide, according to the report.

As for her platform, Ms. Harris also has faced criticism from her staff for not having a concise, clear health care plan, which has become central to the candidates polling at the top of the list of Democratic presidential candidates. 

The letter goes on to read: "Because we have refused to confront our mistakes, foster an environment of critical thinking, and honest feedback, or trust the expertise of talented staff, we find ourselves making the same unforced errors over and over."

The report adds that Kamala Harris' sister, Maya, who directs the campaign, creates division within the staff, making it hard for them to address their concerns and criticisms of the candidate.  Staffers also believe it would be difficult to replace Mr Rodriguez without also signaling the resignations of Ms Harris' consultants.

The New York Times spoke to Congresswoman Marcia Fudge, an influential leader within the Congressional Black Caucus, who said she told Ms. Harris that "there needs to be a change" and has urged the candidate to remove Mr. Rodriguez. "The weakness is at the top," she pointed out.

In a statement, Mr Rodriguez said: "Just like every campaign, we have made tough decisions to have the resources we need to place in Iowa and springboard into the rest of the primary calendar."

Ms. Harris declined an interview with the newspaper.

Her campaign momentum also has faced a similar fundraising blow, diving from $12 million in early 2019 — just behind top-ranked Bernie Sanders, who collected more than $18 million — to a flat-lining $11 million in the second and third quarters of the year.

The report suggests the campaign is bracing for a large financial hit to close out the year, while the campaign mulls whether to consider embracing super PACs to try to bring in more cash ahead of 2020.