A half-dozen Democratic lawmakers signed an open letter Wednesday urging Gov. Brian Kemp to hire more diverse senior staffers, arguing that people of color should “have a seat at the decision-making table in the highest office in the state.”
The legislators praise the “remarkable accomplishments” of the Republican’s recent appointments to state boards and other key posts. But they raised alarms over a Jan. 7 press release that lists 14 white senior aides hired to fill top positions in his office.
“The diversity of individuals with whom you surround yourself makes a difference in the lives of Georgians, particularly when it comes to issues like voter suppression, criminal justice reform, health care, immigration, and more,” read the letter.
“Without a staff representing the diversity of Georgians and their experiences, you deprive yourself of the opportunity enact policies that will improve the lives of all Georgians.”
It was signed by a diverse group that includes Asian, black, LGBTQ and white lawmakers: State Sens. Ed Harbison and Sally Harrell, and state Reps. Erick Allen, Park Cannon, David Dreyer and Sam Park.
Kemp officials did not immediately respond to the letter, but previously said the January release doesn’t include other hires, including a Latino deputy counsel, an African-American policy adviser and field representative and an Indian operations manager.
The governor surprised even his critics with a round of relatively diverse appointments to some of the state’s most coveted positions.
An Atlanta Journal-Constitution analysis found that Kemp selected women for about half of the roughly 80 appointments he has made to state boards and criminal justice posts the first five months of the year. About a quarter of those appointees are minorities, mostly African American officials. At least three are LGBTQ.
Democrats want him to bring more diversity to his executive office, too, which includes influential policy, legal and operational positions.
In a series of recent tweets blasting Kemp, Lauren Groh-Wargo, the top aide to Stacey Abrams, called the collection of aides he’s assembled “probably the least diverse Gov staff in contemporary GA history.”
Here’s the full letter:
We write to recognize the steps you have taken to increase diversity in your administration and to applaud the remarkable accomplishments of the individuals you recently appointed. Diversity is Georgia's strength, and the people of Georgia are better served when the individuals who work for them reflect our population as a whole.
Any progress in increasing diversity within your administration is positive, but we encourage you to do more. Georgia's population is almost half people of color, and your appointments, while cause for celebration individually, fall well short of collectively representing Georgia's population. Further, non-Hispanic white Georgians comprise 100 percent of your senior staff (14 of 14), according to a January 7 press release from your office.
Most certainly, there are qualified applicants among the approximately 5 million people of color in Georgia to have a seat at the decision-making table in the highest office in the state. It is our hope that any sincere efforts to increase diversity in your administration would also extend to your immediate staff.
The diversity of individuals with whom you surround yourself makes a difference in the lives of Georgians, particularly when it comes to issues like voter suppression, criminal justice reform, health care, immigration, and more. Without a staff representing the diversity of Georgians and their experiences, you deprive yourself of the opportunity enact policies that will improve the lives of all Georgians.
We welcome further discussion with you on this critically important issue.
Senator Ed Harbison
Senator Sally Harrell
Representative Erick Allen
Representative Park Cannon
Representative David Dreyer
Representative Sam Park
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