Joe Biden has added two Philadelphians with extensive experience in Pennsylvania politics to lead his campaign operation in a state critical to the presidential election and his hopes of winning the White House.

Biden on Tuesday named Brendan McPhillips as his Pennsylvania state director and Sinceré Harris as senior adviser in the state, the campaign first confirmed to the Inquirer on Tuesday.

McPhillips, who lives in Point Breeze, most recently led Pete Buttigieg’s campaign in Iowa, helping the former mayor of South Bend, Ind., pull off a surprising first-place finish. McPhillips previously managed Pennsylvania Lt. Gov. John Fetterman’s primary campaign for U.S. Senate in 2016 and Helen Gym’s successful 2015 City Council run. He also led Andrew Gillum’s 2018 bid for governor of Florida.

Harris, a Philadelphia native and Temple University alumna, has been executive director of the Pennsylvania Democratic Party since 2015 and has close ties to Gov. Tom Wolf, after previously serving as Wolf’s deputy statewide political director and working in his administration.

Pete Buttigieg (left) and his then-Iowa state director, Brendan McPhillips, at an NAACP forum in Des Moines on Nov. 2, 2019.
Pete Buttigieg (left) and his then-Iowa state director, Brendan McPhillips, at an NAACP forum in Des Moines on Nov. 2, 2019.

The Biden campaign is expected to add more staff to its Pennsylvania operation in the coming days.

Harris and McPhillips will be charged with boosting Biden’s support in a state where tiny margins can have huge consequences. Donald Trump won Pennsylvania by 44,000 votes in 2016, a less than 1% margin that helped seal his national victory.

Both parties see Pennsylvania as vital to this year’s election as well.

The announcement is part of a spree of swing =-state hires. Biden in recent weeks has built out his staff in Florida, Michigan, Wisconsin, Arizona, North Carolina, and Nevada, all key battlegrounds. But some supporters, including in Pennsylvania, have worried that, amid the limitations imposed by the coronavirus, it has taken too long to fill out important positions, particularly in such a critical state.

Biden’s campaign had originally hoped to have staff in place in key states by early June. The Trump campaign and Republican National Committee say they already have 106 people working on the ground in Pennsylvania. Vice President Mike Pence is scheduled to visit the state Thursday, with a bus tour from Lancaster to Philadelphia.

Despite only now hiring Pennsylvania-specific staff, Biden has already had a significant presence in the state: His national headquarters is in Philadelphia, and the former vice president has held several major events here and in Pittsburgh. More recently, as he has cautiously restarted campaign travel and left his Wilmington home, he has traveled to nearby Pennsylvania for several events. Since early June, he has come to City Hall for a speech on race and made campaign stops in West Philadelphia and Delaware and Lancaster Counties. He is scheduled to campaign in Dunmore, near Scranton, on Thursday, at the same time as Pence’s visit.

Recent polls show Biden leading Trump in Pennsylvania by between 5 and 10 percentage points.