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DCCC Challenge Not Expected As Members Line Up For Leadership Posts

Maloney to lead review of campaign arm instead of challenge Lujan for chair

Instead of mounting a challenge for chair of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, New York Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney is going to lead a review of the campaign arm and present findings to House Democrats in February. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)
Instead of mounting a challenge for chair of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, New York Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney is going to lead a review of the campaign arm and present findings to House Democrats in February. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

House Democrats will square off Monday in a series of elections for lower-rung leadership positions. But one critical post likely to be uncontested is the chairmanship of the caucus’ campaign arm. 

Lawmakers, including newly elected freshmen who will serve in the 115th Congress, will chose co-chairs of the Democratic Policy and Communications Committee, as well as a member who has served five terms or less for an as-yet-unnamed leadership post. 

A challenge has not materialized to Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chairman Ben Ray Luján after several members made a big push to make his role an elected position. But members have praised the New Mexico Democrat and said Election Day disappointments at not flipping more Republican seats aren’t necessarily his fault. 

New York Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney, 50, had considered challenging Luján, 44, but ultimately they worked out a deal with Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi that would allow Maloney to conduct a review of the DCCC. 

[Frustrated Democrats See DCCC Overhaul as Step Toward Electoral Success]

“What we’ve decided to do together is do a thorough deep dive — an after action review — that I will lead with the maximum input possible from the members of the Democratic caucus so we can address all the concerns that our colleagues have,” Maloney said. “We can find out what worked and what didn’t and go forward together in the spirit of collaboration and beat Republicans.”

Lujan and Maloney spent much of Friday’s vote series talking and laughing together, at one point forming a quartet with Pelosi and New York Rep. Joe Crowley. Connecticut Rep. Rosa DeLauro then came over and put her arms around Lujan and Maloney, bringing them into a big group hug.

“Sean and I had a chance to visit,” Lujan said. “We both agreed that the ideas we were sharing with one another were ideas that we could mutually support, and that this was a way that we could move forward.”

The chairman praised Maloney’s expertise and said that an audit of the campaign committee’s efforts was necessary. “After every election, whether it’s individually with the campaign or campaign committee, you owe it to yourself, you owe it to all your volunteers, your supporters and your team to do a deep dive,” Lujan said

The review will begin immediately and initial findings and recommendations will be presented to the Democratic Caucus at their annual retreat in February, Maloney said. “We’ll have final recommendations and a final report within a few weeks thereafter, so about a 90-day period start to finish.”

There are no limits to what the review will cover, Maloney said, noting he plans to look at “everything from the finances of the DCCC to the use of external consultants and technology vendors to the staff and the organization structure.”

Maloney said his consideration of running for DCCC chair was never about Lujan. “I believe in my heart that he’s a good person. He is doing a great job,” he said. “But like all of us, he deserves to have help and support. And if I can bring some expertise to that, working in partnership with him, I think that’s a lot better than having some big fight and some big negative conversation that starts to become more about ego or people’s career objectives.”

Asked if he would consider a regional vice chair post if the caucus decides to move forward with that proposal, Maloney said, “The only thing I’m interested in is making sure we’re putting the best team on the field and we have a campaign committee that is an effective fighting force. Whatever helps with that objective I’m open to but I don’t have any specific plans for any additional post. I’m not sure it’s necessary for this.”

[Pelosi Withstands Challenge to Remain House Democratic Leader]

Ohio Rep. Tim Ryan, who lost his challenge to Pelosi for minority leader but won his push to make the DCCC chair to be an elected position, said if he was in charge of the DCCC he would ask all staffers to leave and resubmit their resumes to get their jobs back.

“Soup to nuts I just think we need to hit the reset button down there,” Ryan said. “They need to go on a consultant detox.”

Leadership Contests

At least five or six candidates are running for three co-chair slots on the DPCC, a panel that is in charge of caucus messaging. 

Three of the candidates were previously nominated by Pelosi before the caucus voted on Thursday to open up the election. Pelosi’s picks are Reps. Cheri Bustos of Illinois, Hakeem Jeffries of New York and Matt Cartwright of Pennsylvania. 

Reps. John Delaney, 53, of Maryland and Steve Cohen, 67, of Tennessee are also running, they confirmed to Roll Call. Rhode Island Rep. David Cicilline, 55, is also running, his spokesman confirmed. 

Delaney said he is interested in helping lead the DPCC because he thinks the organization needs “a very independent, very objective — I call it run-it criticism process — where you actually do a bunch of analytics trying to figure out what part of our platform is not resonating better.“ He said he worries that Democrats’ natural instinct is just to retweak the platform but the process should be more deliberate than that.

Cohen said he’s running because it’s important the caucus improve its communications to “have the public understands that the party is in line with its values, which we are.” The caucus needs to be involved in crafting the message, he said, noting, “We need to be concerned about minority issues but some of them shouldn’t be front burner.”

Cicilline said in a statement that he’s spoken with “dockworkers, shipbuilders, and factory employees who voted for me but not for our presidential nominee” and they, like other Americans, have anxieties about the state of the country. “As Donald Trump prepares to enter office, it’s more important than ever that we clearly and forcefully develop and articulate our strategies to create good-paying jobs, make college more affordable, end gun violence, ensure retirement security, and at the same time defend our American values,” he said.

Only one person will fill the leadership slot reserved for a member who’s served five terms or less and multiple members are running. 

California Rep. Tony Cárdenas, 53, who has served two terms, he wants to be at the leadership table to ensure the focus remains on American people that are suffering and that efforts take back the majority are about giving those people the help they need. 

The position “guarantees more diversity at the table, including people who haven’t been here 20 and 30 years,”  Cárdenas said. 

Michigan Rep. Debbie Dingell, 63, who’s finishing her freshman term, said she’s running to be a voice for the Midwest and for Medicare. “I’m running for one term,” she said. “This is the year we need to have a voice for the Midwest.”

Del. Stacey Plaskett of the Virginia Islands is also running, her spokesman Richard Motta confirmed. “Delegate Plaskett represents a district in which the residents, like millions of Americans across the country, feel disaffected or left out of the Democrats’ economic message,” he said. “She is ready to represent that perspective and be an energetic participant in shaping the path of the Democratic Caucus moving forward.”

Ryan wouldn’t rule out running for something. “Not at this point — maybe,” Ryan said. “There’s a lot of them. We’re going to talk about it this weekend. I’m still recouping.”

Ryan has served for seven terms, so he would not qualify for the five terms or less post but he could run for for a DPCC co-chair slot. He said Thursday he didn’t think he would run for DCCC chair and he has been complimentary of Lujan, even though he’s raised larger complaints about the campaign arm. 

Simone Pathé and Rema Rahman contributed to this report.

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