- The Washington Times
Monday, June 17, 2019

House Democrats were hoping to stifle internal fights with their new policy to blacklist consultants who work for candidates challenging sitting lawmakers.

It’s backfired, say consultants and liberal activists who not only continue to protest the move by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, but have begun to recruit candidates to challenge the policy.

Progressive groups have cheered on challengers to two sitting House Democrats, one in Texas and one in Illinois, saying the party needs to purge itself of lawmakers who don’t toe the line on abortion, “Medicare for All” and other liberal priorities.

And Rebecca Katz, founder of progressive consulting firm New Deal Strategies, says the attention brought by the DCCC’s ban has only boosted the rebels.

“The DCCC blacklist policy has backfired spectacularly,” she said. “In addition to angering the most vocal and active part of the Democratic base, it gave dissenting firms like mine, New Deal Strategies, a lot of free publicity, and made it easier for progressive primary challengers to reach out and find us.”

“I’m confident that we are actually working with more Congressional primary challengers than we would have been if not for the DCCC’s new policy. So thanks, I guess,” she added.

The DCCC’s goal with its policy was to try to protect lawmakers who already have seats — but liberals said it would prevent insurgent wins like those of Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York and Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts, who last year each unseated 10-term incumbents in primaries and cruised to November victories in heavily Democratic districts.

“We think the DCCC blacklist disproportionately harms younger, more diverse, and women candidates especially,” Connor Farrell, founder of the progressive organizer Left Rising, told The Washington Times. “We are happy to help compelling candidates make their case to represent their districts, towns, or states.”

A Democratic national strategist confirmed with The Times that the DCCC met with progressive groups a few months ago to listen to their concerns, but didn’t agree to any change in their policy.

The strategist said the DCCC is committed to supporting all incumbents no matter their stance on contentious issues.

Rep. Cheri Bustos, the DCCC chairwoman who formed the blacklist policy, has become a particular progressive target since, with Our Revolution, an advocacy group promoting Medicare for All, holding a rally outside her Illinois office last week.

Ms. Katz and other liberal consultants and activists have also joined to publicize themselves, trying to turn the blacklist into a business opportunity, and actively searching for candidates willing to take on DCCC-backed candidates.

Last week Jessica Cisneros announced her bid to unseat Rep. Henry Cuellar in Texas.

She called Mr. Cuellar “Trump’s favorite Democrat” for his moderate voting record, including backing pro-life bills and willingness to work with Republicans on some immigration legislation.

Justice Democrats, one of the activist groups that joined the DCCC blacklist pushback, immediately endorsed Ms. Cisneros, and liberal activists declared her campaign a key test of the DCCC policy.

Her campaign announced Saturday she has raised more than $100,000 since her launch Thursday.

Liberal activists are also lining up behind Marie Newman, who’s trying again to unseat pro-life Democratic Rep. Dan Lipiniski in Illinois — after losing a close primary to him in 2018.

Jennifer Burton, a consultant working with Ms. Newman, wrote in a Politico op-ed last week that two other consultants fled the campaign when the DCCC policy was announced, but she said she’s staying.

She said the policy will lock in what she called the party’s white male domination at the top consultant jobs, despite its intended focus on promoting diversity.

“A better approach would be to stop punishing consultants who work for candidates they believe in and start hiring more firms that actually look like the people that make up the Democratic Party,” she wrote. “Until that happens, I won’t be bowing to the DCCC’s new demands.”

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