At the gym behind Our Lady Queen of the Americas Church in Washington, D.C., there is a regular 6 a.m. basketball game. Former felons, brought in by a nonprofit, play with a revolving set of people like economist Ike Brannon (worked for John McCain), Reggie Love (Obama’s former body man), and a secret service agent — real athletes. For a long time, there was another regular player: Amanda Renteria, now the political director for Hillary Clinton’s campaign. A basketball walk-on at Stanford (and a varsity athlete in two other sports), Renteria developed a reputation over eight years of 6 a.m. games. “If someone gives a really hard foul, that’s kind of intentional, we still refer to it as ‘the Renteria,’” said Bryan Weaver, who works with at-risk individuals and brings the former felons in his nonprofit program to the game, and is also married to Democratic strategist Maria Cardona.
The games are serious, Weaver makes clear, with their most recent rivals being Dan Pfeiffer’s White House team. (“We hated them so much,” he said.) And in a competitive crowd, Renteria stood out. “She hit Pat Summit in the face in warm-ups between Stanford and Tennessee and she wore it as badge of honor,” Weaver said.
“I’ve played basketball in jail and she’s the toughest, meanest person I’ve ever played with,” he said. “She’s this pretty Latina who comes on to the floor and is immediately an assassin.”
Renteria has since left Washington for Brooklyn, and traded this kind of competition for an even rougher one — the political director role on a campaign with make-or-break expectations. That role has been the subject of much consternation, gossip, and expectation among Latino politicos. They called for Clinton to include Hispanics in her inner-circle and in decision-making roles to ensure that Latino voters are a priority — and now the time has come for Renteria to deliver.
Her portfolio — which includes keeping Democrats on Capitol Hill, Latino groups, labor, and others happy — isn’t an easy one, though. Immigrant activists have made life difficult for Democrats over the last few years. Unions have been sharp opponents to President Obama’s trade agenda, a tension that seems unlikely to abate. And there is also this: Renteria is new to the world of a candidate who….
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