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Democratic Women's Caucus members split endorsements for House campaign chief

The Hill logo The Hill 11/24/2020 Rafael Bernal
a person walking down a street next to a building: Democratic Women's Caucus members split endorsements for House campaign chief © Greg Nash Democratic Women's Caucus members split endorsements for House campaign chief

Members of the Democratic Women's Caucus on Tuesday split their endorsements for who should lead the party's House campaign arm heading into what's expected to be a challenging midterm election.

Several lawmakers backed Rep. Tony Cárdenas (D-Calif.), while others threw their support behind Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney (D-N.Y.) to lead the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) in the 2022 election cycle after Rep. Cheri Bustos (D-Ill.) decided not to seek reelection to the post following disappointing 2020 results.

The new endorsements for Cárdenas were revealed in a video where several Democratic congresswomen and former candidates talked about his work running Bold PAC, the Congressional Hispanic Caucus (CHC) campaign arm.

Support for Cárdenas came from California Democratic Reps. Lucille Roybal-Allard and Judy Chu, chairwoman of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus; Rep. Susan Wild (Pa.), a frontline member; and Rep.-elect Teresa Leger Fernández (N.M.).

"I would not be going to Congress if Bold and Tony Cárdenas hadn't been willing to endorse me in a crowded primary," said Fernández, who will take over the seat vacated by Sen.-elect Ben Ray Luján (D).

The video also included endorsements from Reps. Donna Shalala (Fla.) and Xochitl Torres Small (N.M.). Both lost their races on Nov. 3 and are therefore ineligible to vote for the next DCCC chair, but their voices still carry weight in the contest.

In a dear colleague letter that same day, eight other women from the caucus endorsed Maloney.

"We are supporting Sean Patrick Maloney for Chair of the DCCC because he understands the essential role women play in maintaining and expanding our majority. Sean will establish a dedicated Vice Chair for women's recruitment and voter engagement - and ensure she has the resources and staff required to analyze women candidates and voters and create the plan for 2022," the lawmakers wrote.

The letter was signed by Reps. Angie Craig (Minn.), Bonnie Watson Coleman (N.J.), Carolyn Maloney (N.Y.), Jackie Speier (Calif.), Suzan DelBene, Mikie Sherrill (N.J.), Mary Gay Scanlon (Pa.) and Linda Sánchez (Calif.).

The Women's Caucus endorsements come as the race between Cárdenas and Maloney appears to have tightened, with Maloney securing support from two key CHC members, Sánchez and Rep. Verónica Escobar (Texas), who had been expected to back Cárdenas.

Maloney has brought an outsider pitch to the race, vowing to reform digital campaigning and do away with antiquated polling systems, while focusing less on fundraising.

The jab at fundraising is a thinly veiled attack on Cárdenas, who has proved himself a prolific fundraiser, taking Bold PAC from a small operation protecting CHC incumbents to a nationwide organization that's contributed to more than 200 House candidates.

Cárdenas's allies, apart from touting his fundraising accomplishments, say he has a better understanding of campaigning among diverse communities, a skill that will be necessary for Democrats to protect their slim majority heading into 2022.

"Tony has been a remarkable leader and fundraiser, whose work has increased the diversity of Congress. As DCCC chair, I know he will help us reach as many voters from as many communities as possible," said Chu.

Luján, a former Bold PAC and DCCC chair, is heading Cárdenas's whip list, which includes an assortment of members from the CHC, Asian Pacific American Caucus, Congressional Black Caucus and frontline moderates like Wild.

Cárdenas supporters have highlighted his Bold PAC experience. The previous chairman, Luján, used Bold PAC as a stepping stone to the DCCC, where he engineered the 2018 election that returned Democrats to a majority in the House.

"As chair of Bold PAC, Tony has demonstrated an outstanding ability to lead the DCCC, to maintain our majority and increase it in what is likely to be a tough midterm election," said Roybal-Allard.

There are 88 Democratic women in the 116th Congress; that number is not expected to change dramatically for the incoming class. Many members have been reluctant to publicly voice their support for either Cárdenas or Maloney, in what remains as the last significant leadership race for House Democrats.

Updated on Nov. 25 at 10:31 a.m.

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