Congress

Minority-oriented think tank lauds Sen. Thom Tillis for hiring diversity

Senate Judiciary Committee member, Sen. Thom Tillis, R-N.C., asks a questions of attorney general nominee Loretta Lynch on Capitol Hill in Washington, Jan. 28, 2015.
Senate Judiciary Committee member, Sen. Thom Tillis, R-N.C., asks a questions of attorney general nominee Loretta Lynch on Capitol Hill in Washington, Jan. 28, 2015. AP

A nonpartisan minority-oriented think tank praised Sen. Thom Tillis Monday for hiring an African-American woman to a senior staff position, a rarity on Capitol Hill.

Tillis, a North Carolina Republican, selected Courtney Temple as his legislative director, promoting her from senior legislative assistant.

"Senator Thom Tillis has demonstrated important leadership in hiring Courtney Temple as his legislative director," said Spencer Overton, president of the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies. "Temple is one of four African-American staffers so far in the entire Senate who currently hold one of the top four spots – chief of staff, legislative director, communications director, and staff committee director."

Prior to joining Tillis’ staff in 2015, Temple served as director of government relations for the U.S. Travel Association where she worked with Republican lawmakers on travel visa issues, the TSA screening process, and the Terrorism Risk Insurance Program.

She previously worked on Capitol Hill as legislative director for former Republican Rep. Joe Heck of Nevada, and concentrated on education, workforce, and travel and tourism issues.

Temple also held legislative positions for former Reps. David Hobson and Steve Austria, both Republicans from Ohio.

"Courtney is a legislative all-star whose work ethic and passion for policy is unmatched," Tillis said in a statement. "Her promotion is well-deserved…"

The Joint Center, in a 2015 report, found that while people of color make up 36 percent of the U.S. population, they only account for 7.1 percent of top Senate Staff.

The center’s report revealed that of 336 top Senate staffers, 24 were people of color. Twelve were Asian-American, seven were Latino, three were African-American, and two were Native American.

In addition to Tillis, the center lauded five other lawmakers for hiring or promoting people of color to high-level positions.

House Speaker Paul Ryan of Wisconsin hired Jonathan Burks as chief of staff, making him the first African-American ever to hold that position; Democratic Sen. Kamala Harris from California, hired Clint Odom as legislative director, currently making him the only African-American Democratic staffer in the new Congress in one of the top four senior staff positions; and Sen. Dianne Feinstein tapped veteran aide Steve Haro to be her chief of staff.

Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto, a Nevada Democrat, hired Rey Benitez as communications director and Sen. Martin Heinrich, a Democrat from New Mexico, hired Virgillio Barerra as legislative director.

William Douglas: 202-383-6026, @williamgdouglas

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