Some Latin Democrats want one of their own after a cycle of strained relations with the DCCC. Progressives are hoping for someone who can mend relations with them after bruising primary battles. At-risk Democrats prefer a president who understands their background — but not one who could lose in 2024, like Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney (DN.Y.) did this year. And some members are still pushing for a leader who isn’t even a member of Congress, an unusual move likely not allowed by party rules, though there’s no consensus on who.
Weeks of quiet maneuvering by the two openly declared candidates, Bera and Cardenas, have been rendered mostly moot by the change in caucus rules making the position appointed instead of elected, and it’s unclear where Jeffries will land. Asked if he would limit himself to the two declared candidates, Jeffries declined to weigh in: “This is an important decision and I will pursue this decision with the seriousness, solemnity and solemn nature that the decision demands. “
It’s part of a broader examination of Democrats’ electoral fortunes and political strategy, after House members watched two back-to-back DCCC chairs face tough challenges at home — Rep. Cheri Bustos (D-Ill.) faced a close race in 2020 ahead of Maloney’s loss this year — and faced caucus-wide wrangling over how to get a message to voters.
This all becomes a difficult task for the new leader as he rounds out the rest of his leadership team.
“You gotta raise a shitload of money for the whole caucus, you gotta support the frontliners and help us get seats from red to blue. So it’s hard work,” Rep. Jamal Bowman (DN.Y.). “It has to be someone who is a superstar, but it also has to be someone who can build coalitions of different diverse communities.”
There’s a reason to hurry: just five seats separate the two parties, and both have a clear shot at securing the next House majority. Recruitment of candidates for 2024 can begin immediately, without having to wait for national redistricting to occur as in the last election cycle.
Republicans have already chosen their president, Rep. Richard Hudson (RN.C.). By the end of December 2020, Maloney had already taken the reins of the DCCC and appointed an executive director.
Maloney’s DCCC ended up exceeding expectations, with an expected GOP wave in November that instead turned into a small ungovernable Republican majority. But his tenure has drawn widespread criticism from all corners of the Democratic caucus — for everything from interference in the GOP primaries to lack of investment in Latino seats. And it ended in an embarrassing personal loss: Maloney himself became a target in his district and lost to Michael Lawler after an avalanche of Republican foreign spending.
This year, the party delayed its decision. Democrats led by Reps. Suzan Delbene (D-wash.), Marc Pocan (D-Wis.) and Brad Schneider (D-Ill.) conducted a thrust, which was approved in a unbalanced internal vote, to change caucus rules and make the position of DCCC chair an appointed, not an elected position. It’s a throwback to pre-2017 caucus procedure. Jeffries technically has until February to choose, under new caucus rules.
Part of the problem: A significant portion of House Democrats seem unsure of their two declared nominees. Each would bring their own baggage – and assets – to the campaign arm.
Bera, who ousted a GOP incumbent 10 years ago, was the chairman of the committee’s Frontline program for incumbents at risk in 2022. He is widely expected to bring back some former DCCC operatives if he is chosen as chairman, including Danny Kazin, who led the independent committee. spending arms in 2018, according to three people with knowledge of the situation.
But union leaders quietly opposed his candidacy, following his 2015 decision to side with President Barack Obama to fast-track the Trade Promotion Authority that allowed him to strike trade deals with less input from Congress.
Meanwhile, Cardenas has been the subject of a major opposition research dump that has challenged some already public claims. His allies suspect Bera supporters were behind it all, but Bera’s office has denied any involvement.
Cardenas, who represents a safe Democratic seat in the Los Angeles area, is backed by the powerful Congressional Hispanic Caucus, a group that has fallen out somewhat with the DCCC in 2020. Latino Democrats have grown increasingly frustrated when the campaign arm refused to invest significant funds in the competition. races in southern Texas and southern Arizona, as well as when the super PAC home closely aligned with Nancy Pelosi spent against a Latina candidate, now-Rep.-elected Andrea Salinasin an Oregon open seat.
“We were disappointed with some of the work they did in Texas and, of course, in Oregon,” Rep. Sylvie Garcia (D-Texas), who supports Cardenas.
Cardenas also led BOLD PAC, the political arm of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, and drew praise from fellow Democrats for turning it into a fundraising powerhouse, bolstered in part by his own network of donors.
Still, some of the top Latino members have indicated that while they would prefer one of their own to the DCCC, they would still support Jeffries’ choice regardless.
“The most important thing is obviously that, number 1, we have a very qualified person. It’s great that there’s potentially a Latino there because we’re a growing demographic, very important to the coalition you need to hold the House,” Rep. Ruben Gallego (D-Arizona), who chaired BOLD PAC this cycle.