Sen. Bernie Sanders has hired Faiz Shakir, a respected progressive operative who had been serving as the national political director for the American Civil Liberties Union, to manage his presidential campaign, an aide told CNN on Tuesday.
Shakir previously worked as an adviser to former Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid of Nevada and, before that, then-House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi. He joined the ACLU in January 2017, as President Donald Trump took office, and has emerged as a leading voice in a series of high-profile legal battles against the administration.
Sanders’ decision to hire Shakir, who has credibility across the Democratic party’s establishment-progressive insurgent divide, is a sign that the organization behind his second bid for the Democratic nomination will be more robust following a campaign that struggled to build a national infrastructure on the fly in 2016.
Shakir replaces Jeff Weaver, Sanders’ first presidential campaign manager, who will stay with Sanders as a senior adviser.
“Faiz is a diehard progressive who knows how to work effectively within the system,” Adam Jentleson, Reid’s former deputy chief of staff, told CNN on Tuesday. “Reid did not make a big decision without consulting Faiz. There’s no one he trusted more on how the progressive community would react on something and no one whose advice he took more seriously on pushing him to the left.”
Shakir also worked as an adviser at the Center for American Progress under its founder John Podesta, who would go on to become Hillary Clinton’s 2016 campaign chairman. Sanders’ top foreign policy adviser, Matt Duss, was a colleague of Shakir’s during his time there.
“Faiz’s mission in life is to move all of Washington, D.C., to the left,” Jentleson said, “and he’s really done a tremendous amount already to accomplish it.”
The Daily Beast first reported that Shakir had accepted the job with Sanders.
Sanders also picked up his first pair of major endorsements on Tuesday, from fellow Vermont lawmakers Sen. Pat Leahy, who backed Clinton in 2016, and Rep. Pete Welch.
“We have a strong field of candidates, and Bernie’s entry makes the field even stronger,” Leahy said in a statement. “Bernie and I had a great talk today. I’m proud to support my fellow Vermonter, a proven leader with a strong message.”
Sanders waited about five months for his first congressional endorsement, from progressive Arizona Rep. Raul Grijalva in October of 2015, during his first presidential bid.
Leahy joined Welch, the state’s lone House member, in backing Sanders, who first announced his second run for the Democratic nomination earlier in the day during an interview on Vermont Public Radio.
“I wanted to let the people of the state of Vermont know about this first,” Sanders told VPR, “and what I promise to do is, as I go around the country, is to take the values that all of us in Vermont are proud of – our belief in justice, in community, in grassroots politics and town meetings – that’s what I’m going to carry all over this country.”
Sanders hit a similar note in a tweet touting the support of Leahy and Welch.
“Thank you @SenatorLeahy and @PeterWelch for your support,” he wrote. “What I promise to do, as I go around the country, is carry the values that all of us in Vermont are proud of — a belief in justice, community and grassroots politics.”
Welch also endorsed Sanders during the 2016 cycle, but not until about 10 days before the Vermont primary and after Sanders had defeated Clinton in New Hampshire.
On Tuesday he hailed his home state colleague as “a welcome voice in this campaign.”
“He has a proven, powerful, and compelling message of economic fairness and environmental justice that will resonate across America,” Welch said of Sanders in a statement. “I will support my friend and fellow Vermonter for president in 2020.”
CNN’s Ryan Nobles contributed to this report