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Crowded Fields Complicate Progressive Caucus Endorsements

The Progressive Caucus issued guidance to candidates this week

Two candidates touted Rep. Lois Frankel, D-Fla., in their campaigns even though she endorsed their opponents. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)
Two candidates touted Rep. Lois Frankel, D-Fla., in their campaigns even though she endorsed their opponents. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Rep. Lois Frankel was surprised this week when she received a text with a picture from a campaign mailer promoting Democrat Scott Wallace that showed her picture among 75 other members of Congress. 

“The Congressional Progressive Caucus Endorses Scott Wallace,” read the text above the picture. The only problem was Frankel had endorsed Wallace’s opponent in Pennsylvania’s 1st District — Navy veteran and attorney Rachel Reddick.

Frankel also learned that another Pennsylvania Democratic candidate, pastor Greg Edwards, had listed her as backing his campaign in a Facebook post touting the Progressive Caucus endorsement. Frankel is actually supporting one of Edward’s opponents — Allentown City Solicitor Susan Wild.

The mixup is an unexpected symptom of crowded Democratic primaries: that members of congressional caucuses might not agree with the group’s endorsed candidate.

Frankel reached out to CPC chairman Mark Pocan, D-Wis., about the issue, and said the caucus should have a discussion on how to proceed. Frankel attributed the issue to “some intense primaries.”

“Democratic primaries today — candidates often want to be the progressive,” Frankel said. “I guess maybe it’s more popular today to be a progressive than before.”

The Congressional Progressive Caucus sent guidance this week to its endorsed candidates, according to the Edwards campaign. Edwards’ spokesman Dan Friedman called the mixup an “unfortunate earnest mistake” and said individual members’ names were deleted from the Facebook post. The Progressive Caucus PAC and Wallace’s campaign did not respond to a requests for comment.

The new guidance instructed candidates to ensure that individual lawmakers approve the use of their names on campaign materials.

The Congressional Progressive Caucus has endorsed 22 candidates so far in 2018, and it isn’t the only caucus weighing in on congressional races.

The Congressional Hispanic Caucus, though its Bold PAC, has endorsed 20 candidates. Equality PAC, which is tied to the Congressional LGBT Equality Caucus, has backed 23 House challengers and incumbents. ASPIRE PAC, the political arm of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus, has endorsed 11 candidates. 

PAC endorsements typically come with donations to the candidates’ campaigns. A caucus’ endorsement can also help connect candidates with members of Congress, who can campaign for the endorsed candidates or provide advice. 

Frankel, a member of the Progressive Caucus, could not recall another cycle where a candidate had used her likeness to tout the caucus’ endorsement even though she had backed another candidate in the race. 

“We have so many candidates running,” Frankel said. “This could happen.”

Frankel said she does not believe the candidates were trying to sneakily claim an endorsement. She said wanted the issue addressed on principle, not because falsely touting her endorsement would actually affect the race. 

“I don’t think it’s going to make or break either one of their campaigns,” Frankel said. “It’s not like I’m Michelle Obama, let’s put it that way. I doubt that people in the district know me.”

Reddick had texted Frankel about the mailer, and Wild had informed Frankel of the Facebook post. The Florida Democrat often serves as a mentor for women candidates and travels around the country supporting the women running for Congress.

Frankel is a co-chair of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee’s WomenLEAD program, along with Florida Rep. Val Demings and Michigan Rep. Debbie Dingel, which recruits women to run for Congress. (Frankel said her actions supporting certain candidates were not on behalf of the DCCC).

Reddick and Wallace are facing off to take on GOP Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick in Pennsylvania’s new 1st District, which became slightly more Democratic under a new congressional map. Inside Elections with Nathan L. Gonzales rates the race Tilt Republican

Edwards and Wild are competing in the crowded primary field in Pennsylvania’s 7th District, which is an open seat race due to GOP Rep. Charlie Dent’s retirement. Inside Elections rates the race Tilts Democratic

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