Progressive Groups Blast Bustos for Tapping Moderate Dems for DCCC Leadership Team

DCCC Chairwoman Cheri Bustos (D., Ill.) / Getty Images
• January 10, 2019 9:52 pm


Several progressive organizations blasted the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, or DCCC, on Wednesday for announcing a leadership team consisting entirely of pro-business Democrats from the New Democrat Coalition.

Rep. Cheri Bustos (D., Ill.), who was recently elected to be the DCCC chairwoman, announced her racially diverse team of two women and four men, but she received backlash for not tapping any members from the Congressional Progressive Caucus, which has over 95 members and is the largest single bloc in the House Democratic Caucus.

Bustos tapped Reps. Pete Aguilar (Calif.), Val Demings (Fla.) and Donald McEachin (Va.) to lead the DCCC’s  2020 candidate recruitment efforts. The other leaders, Reps. Ami Bera (Calif.), Suzan DelBene (Wash.) and Brad Schneider (Ill.), will be focused on leading the campaign arm’s Frontline program to defend vulnerable Democrats from scrutiny, the Huffington Post reported.

Bustos' strategy has drawn rebuke from the same progressive groups that were critical of the DCCC during the 2018 midterms, as they focused on recruiting moderate candidates with successful fundraising strategies versus progressive candidates.

Waleed Shahid, the communications director of Justice Democrats, a liberal group who will focus on running progressive candidates against moderate House Democrats, slammed the DCCC for not selecting progressive members like Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D., N.Y.) for leadership positions.

"At a time when progressive members of the new class of Democrats, like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, are dominating national headlines and gaining grassroots supporters, the DCCC has missed another opportunity to engage where the center of energy is in the Democratic Party and in American politics," Shahid said.

While the DCCC was successful during the 2018 midterms with moderate candidates, a spokeswoman for Our Revolution, the successor organization for Sen. Bernie Sanders' (I., Vt.) 2016 presidential campaign, argues they were only successful because of a progressive message.

"The DCCC would do well to incorporate members from the Congressional Progressive Caucus in candidate recruitment efforts to ensure that we continue building on the gains we made in 2018 in future elections," Diane May said.

Randy Bryce, the progressive ironworker who rose to prominence in liberal circles during his unsuccessful House bid in Wisconsin last year, castigated the DCCC for not elevating leaders with modest socioeconomic backgrounds.

"I appreciate that the DCCC supported my campaign, but there’s no question that they are more likely to pick millionaires than people like me," said Bryce, who recently became a senior adviser to the left-leaning Working Families Party. "The only way we’ll get a Congress that looks like America is if progressives recruit, train and help everyday working people to run for office."

DCCC Communications Director Jared Smith pushed back against the progressive groups, saying the exclusion was not deliberate.

"Serving on the recruitment and Frontline program is something members volunteer to do ― these members stepped up and sought out leadership roles, and we’re honored to have their help so we can defend and expand the new Democratic majority," Smith said.

He went on to highlight how a majority of the leadership team was made up of people of color.

Smith also noted that a majority of the team is made up of people of color ― Demings and McEachin are black; Aguilar is Latino; and Bera is of South Asian descent ― and that no one from the CPC ran for DCCC chair. Bustos defeated DelBene and Rep. Denny Heck (Wash.), neither of whom are in the CPC, in a Democratic caucus election for the top post.

In addition, there will be other DCCC leadership positions for progressive members to fill in the future, according to Smith.