‘She’s just a really good person’: Tri-Cities native, former Kamala Harris campaign staffer talks about VP bid


JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (WJHL)- Among those pleased with the choice of Senator Kamala Harris as Joe Biden’s Vice Presidential running mate is a Tri-Cities native who worked closely with Harris during her Presidential primary campaign.

“Just knowing that Kamala Harris who is such a wonderful person is going to be able to take on this role and hopefully be successful at it…. it was really exciting,” said Ian Sams.

The Washington DC-based political consultant and strategist grew up in Watauga, Tennessee (between Johnson City and Elizabethton) and graduated from Providence Academy.  

The Niswonger scholar later graduated from the University of Alabama before working for Hillary Clinton and Tim Kaine.

Last year, he joined the Kamala Harris campaign as her national press secretary until she dropped out of the Democratic primary.

Sams says the Biden campaign kept the choice secret from almost everyone.    He found out through a text when the announcement was made.

“I think (Biden) picked her because he knew he could make some history with this choice,” he said. “This is the first time in history that we’ve had a woman of color on a national ticket, and the millions of little girls and little boys who are children of immigrants and are children of color are looking up and seeing someone who looks like them on a national ticket and in a position of power and leadership.”

Sams was Harris’ national spokesman when she fiercely criticized Biden during the debates.

“I kind of see a political party as a big family,” Sams said   “I think there are people in Johnson City and Bristol who are going to going to family Thanksgiving in November, and they may have an uncle who they don’t agree with on everything and maybe they tell them every now and then that they disagree.   But they’re still family, and they still  reconcile and get a long in the end.”

He says the fence-mending between Biden and Harris stands in contrast to President Trump, “who seems to want to command loyalty from everybody and anybody and if they say anything even remotely critical of him he calls them names and tweets nasty things about them and tries to push them away.”

Sams said he is looking forward to the Pence / Harris Vice Presidential debate.   “Senator Harris is a phenomenal debater,” he said.

During a year of working by her side every day, Sams says he got a chance to know Kamala Harris as a person.   He says she’s deeply committed to family.   To relax, she loves to binge-watch Netflix.   She’s obsessed with cooking and sharing good recipes- a tradition he says was handed down from Harris’ Indian mother.

Oh – and she loves Doritos.

“She’s just a really good person – a down to earth normal person.”

When asked if Sams had a message for Democrats back home in Northeast Tennessee and Southwest Virginia – a Republican stronghold where President Trump dominated four years ago – he urged Biden / Harris supporters to stand strong.    “Everybody who is in Carter County or Washington County toiling away at the local Democratic headquarters – keep it up.  Even if you don’t see the fruits of your labor at the local level it will pay off down the line.”

Sams currently is not employed by the Biden / Harris campaign.    But he seems open to the possibility.

“Never say never,” he said.  “But for now I’m rooting them on from the sidelines and will do everything I can to help them win.”

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