Top DCCC Officials Unaware of Ongoing South Carolina Special Election

Democratic congressional candidate Archie Parnell / Getty
June 20, 2017

Some of the House Democrats in charge of getting their peers elected were completely unaware of an ongoing special election in South Carolina when asked by a reporter.

All eyes in Washington, D.C. are on Georgia's sixth congressional district, where Republican Karen Handel is in a neck-and-neck race with Democrat Jon Ossof that will be decided Tuesday night. Both national parties and affiliated super PACs have poured millions into the race, seen as a potential harbinger of the 2018 midterm elections.

But the same day, a second special election is being held in South Carolina's fifth district, recently vacated by Mick Mulvaney, who President Donald Trump picked to direct the Office of Management and Budget. Republican candidate Ralph Norman is facing off against Democratic candidate Archie Parnell.

Do not expect Parnell's fellow Democrats to know that.

"Who's Archie Parnell?" said Florida Rep. Lois Frankel when asked about the race by Roll Call. As a member of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee's leadership team, Frankel is charged with electing fellow Democrats to the House.

"I honestly have not been tracking it as closely," said Michigan Rep. and fellow DCCC leadership team member Dan Kildee.

Former DCCC chairwoman and current Illinois Rep. Cheri Bustos also told Roll Call she had not been following the race.

Top House Democrats were equally in the dark ahead of the Montana special election in May, when Republican Greg Gianforte won a surprisingly close House race against Democrat Rob Quist.

"Montana special election?" assistant House Democratic leader James Clyburn (S.C.) responded to a question about the race in April. Clyburn served as the DCCC's national mobilization chair in 2016.

In the end, Gianforte won with only 50 percent of the vote after he assaulted a reporter on the eve of the election. The national Democratic Party was criticized for its tepid support of Quist in what he believed was a winnable race.