WASHINGTON — Today, the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies commends U.S. Senator Mark Warner (D-VA) for promoting Lauren Marshall to legislative director in his personal office.
Marshall is one of three current Black legislative directors in the U.S. Senate. Jasmine Dimitriou (Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL)) and Ariel Marshall (Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH)) are the other two.
Prior to her new position, Marshall served as an intern for Senator Warner (May 2011-Aug. 2011), and in various roles for the Senator including Legislative Correspondent (Feb. 2014-July 2016), Legislative Aide (July 2016-June 2017), Legislative Assistant (June 2017-Mar. 2019), and Senior Policy Advisor (Mar. 2019-Jan. 2021). She is a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania.
“Senator Mark Warner shows exceptional leadership in the U.S. Senate by promoting Ms. Marshall to this critical position,” said Joint Center Senior Fellow of Diversity & Inclusion Dr. LaShonda Brenson. “Not only does Ms. Marshall have extensive experience in understanding policy, but she will also undoubtedly bring a valuable perspective for Virginia’s constituents. Black representation among top staff positions in states with large Black populations, like Virginia, is especially important. We are encouraged by Senator Warner’s leadership in prioritizing racial diversity, and I hope other Senators follow his lead and recruit skilled Black individuals to top staff positions.”
“During this difficult moment, it is encouraging to see Senator Warner’s sincere commitment to an inclusive office that represents all Virginians with the development and promotion of Ms. Marshall,” said Joint Center President Spencer Overton, who is a graduate of Virginia’s Hampton University, an HBCU. “Senator Warner has long provided visionary leadership in the Senate on issues that are critical to the future of Black communities and to our nation as a whole—including the future of work and the fight against online disinformation. The development and promotion of Ms. Marshall demonstrate Senator Warner’s leadership in the U.S. Senate on top staff diversity.”
Two other Black legislative directors—Zephranie Buetow (former legislative director for Senator Gary Peters (D-MI)) and Deanne Millison (former legislative director for Senator Kamala Harris (D-CA))—recently left the Hill to join the Biden administration. Buetow will work as Special Assistant to the President and Senate Legislative Affairs Liaison, and Millison will work as Deputy Policy Director for the Vice President.
With the addition of Marshall, African Americans will account for 2.1 percent of the approximately 340 top Senate staffers in Washington, DC who serve as chiefs of staff, legislative directors, communications directors, or full committee staff directors (African Americans account for over 13 percent of the U.S. population). Of the seven Black top staff in the U.S. Senate, two are Republicans and five are Democrats.
In August 2020, the Joint Center published Racial Diversity Among Top Staff in Senate Personal Offices, a report that provides evidence regarding the lack of racial diversity among U.S. Senate personal office top staff positions (i.e., chiefs of staff, legislative directors, communications directors). In the report, we found that people of color make up 40 percent of the U.S. population, but only 11 percent of all Senate office top staff. During the time of data collection in January 2020, the Joint Center found that Virginia had no Black top staff in a Washington, DC Senate personal office, although the state is one of three states with the highest percentage of Black residents represented by two Democratic U.S. Senators (African Americans account for about 37 percent of total Democratic Party turnout in Virginia). Marshall’s hire increases the representation of African Americans among chiefs of staff, legislative directors, and communications directors who work in Virginia U.S. Senate offices from 0 percent to 16.7 percent.
To understand the problem of a lack of Hill staff diversity, why it matters, and solutions, click here.
To see the Joint Center’s research and activities on Hill staff diversity (including our tool tracking the racial diversity of hires to fill the over 200 open top staff positions of newly-elected House and Senate Members), click here.