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DCCC taps new executive director after summer staff upheaval

POLITICO logo POLITICO 9/12/2019 By Heather Caygle, Laura Barrón-López and Jake Sherman
Rep. Cheri Bustos (pictured) named veteran political strategist Lucinda Guinn to serve as the next Executive Director of the DCCC. © Alex Wong/Getty Images Rep. Cheri Bustos (pictured) named veteran political strategist Lucinda Guinn to serve as the next Executive Director of the DCCC.

House Democrats’ embattled campaign arm has tapped a former staffer and well-known Democratic operative as its executive director following a massive upheaval in its top ranks earlier this summer.

Lucinda Guinn, a former executive at EMILY’S List, will serve as the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee’s top staffer. DCCC Chair Cheri Bustos (D-Ill.) informed the members of the decision Wednesday night.

Guinn, who is Hispanic, comes into the role after more than a month-long search following a mass exodus of senior staffers in July, including the former executive director Allison Jaslow. The upheaval followed outcry from Democrats over a lack of diversity at the campaign arm.

"I have selected veteran political strategist Lucinda Guinn to serve as the next Executive Director of the DCCC," Bustos said in a letter to members obtained by POLITICO. "For those of you who don’t know Lucinda, she is a respected leader, manager and strategist with the right experience to help lead our efforts to protect and expand our majority and push even further into Republican territory."

The DCCC reviewed 40 resumes from around the country and interviewed 13 candidates. More than half were people of color and more than half were women. The search, Bustos wrote in the letter, “was truly a first-of-its-kind search that was the most competitive, open and inclusive in the committee’s history.”

Rep. Tony Cardenas, chair of BOLD Pac, the campaign arm for the Hispanic Caucus, praised the decision as a "historic moment for the DCCC."

"Chairwoman Bustos ran an open and inclusive search process that resulted in the first Latina to permanently run the DCCC,” Cardenas said. “Lucinda has been an asset to BOLD PAC and as a Latina and a Texan, she’s in a great position to expand the map in a critical state."

More than a dozen House Democrats led by Cardenas wrote a letter earlier this month advocating for Guinn as the DCCC conducted its search for a new executive director, which included interviewing more than a dozen candidates over the August recess.

“As a Latina and a Texan, Lucinda has the political and lived experience to lead the party,” lawmakers wrote earlier this month, according to a copy of the BOLD Pac letter obtained by POLITICO, which was signed by 15 members including Reps. Katie Porter (D-Calif.), Veronica Escobar (D-Texas), Abigail Spanberger (D-Va.) and Ruben Gallego (D-Ariz.).

“It is paramount that Democrats retain the House and we need the experience, dedication and resolve that her leadership would bring to one of the most consequential elections of our lifetime," they added.

Some lawmakers with knowledge of the hiring privately praised Guinn, who they said already has strong relationships within the Democratic caucus.

Guinn worked at EMILY’s list for five years, serving as vice president and overseeing the powerhouse political action committee’s fundraising and campaign operations. She previously worked at DCCC as a political director and managed multiple political campaigns.

Guinn is currently senior vice president at the political firm 4CM+M and served as a general consultant for BOLD Pac, the campaign arm of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus. BOLD Pac floated Guinn’s name to Latino members and asked for lawmakers to recommend additional Hispanic candidates for the DCCC to consider at the end of July. Subsequently, the Hispanic Caucus rallied around Guinn.

DCCC formed a 12-person advisory board, which included a dozen members and five technical experts who had experience with the campaign arm, to conduct the search and interviews.

Guinn’s hiring comes after a massive exodus in the upper ranks of the DCCC in late July after POLITICO detailed deep-rooted anger among Democrats over a lack of diversity at the campaign arm. Several black and Latino lawmakers detailed their concerns to POLITICO after months of privately clashing with Bustos.

The lawmakers were furious that the senior leadership team at DCCC was stacked with Bustos allies — many of whom were white — despite previous promises by the Illinois Democrat to make diverse hiring a top priority when she took over the campaign arm.

In addition, members were alarmed that several of Bustos’ senior aides departed during the first half of this year, including her chief of staff — a black woman — and her director of mail and polling director, both women.

The outcry resulted in significant changes at the campaign arm – several senior staffers, including Jaslow resigned or were forced out in an effort to calm the fury in the days following POLITICO’s initial report.

Guinn was previously considered for the executive director position before Bustos ultimately tapped Jaslow, an Iraq war veteran and her former chief of staff, for the job in December.

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