Metro Weekly

Gay New York congressman seeking to run Democratic Party’s House campaign arm

Sean Patrick Maloney says his familiarity with the DCCC's internal workings make him best suited for the post

Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney, Credit: U.S. House of Representatives, via Wikimedia

An openly gay congressman is one of two frontrunners seeking to run the Democratic Party’s House campaign arm during the 2022 cycle.

U.S. Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney (D-N.Y.) has indicated his interest in serving as the next chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, a position that will be vacant following the decision of current DCCC Chairwoman Cheri Bustos (D-Ill.), who represents a mostly rural and exurban district won by President Trump in both 2016 and 2020, to step down.

Maloney’s chief rival for the post appears to be U.S. Rep. Tony Cárdenas (D-Calif.), a former Los Angeles City Councilman and California State Assemblyman who has run the Congressional Hispanic Caucus’s campaign arm, BOLD PAC, and was encouraged by allies to drop out of a three-way race for assistant Speaker and instead run for the DCCC post, according to The Hill.

Each man would bring different perspectives and qualities to the job. Maloney, the son of a military veteran and lumberjack who represents a swing district in the lower Hudson Valley, just north of New York City, has proven an ability to consistently win in a conservative-leaning district ever since his first election in 2012. He is a prodigious fundraiser, and would bring diversity to the DCCC position, becoming the first out LGBTQ person to head the party’s campaign arm.

“I won my first election by beating a Republican incumbent and have won reelection five times, outperforming the top of the ticket each time,” Maloney wrote in an open letter to his House colleagues explaining why he wants the position. “I did all this as a married gay man with an interracial family — the first, and until 2020 only, openly LGBTQ person ever elected to Congress in New York.”

Maloney, a co-chair of the Congressional LGBT Equality Caucus, also touted his experience in both business and in government — having worked as a senior White House staffer under President Bill Clinton and as First Deputy Secretary to New York Governors Eliot Spitzer and David Patterson — as a plus.

“I have run large, complex organizations successfully and understand the inner workings of the federal and state executive offices. The DCCC is a complicated organization that will be working with a Democratic White House for the first time in four years. Having a Chair with a developed organizational skill set and executive branch relationships will be critical.”

Maloney previously expressed interest in the DCCC post following the 2016 election, although health problems forced him to ultimately not challenge then-Chairman Ben Ray Luján (D-N.M.) for the position. However, he did lead the DCCC’s “Deep Dive,” a top-to-bottom review of the DCCC, and crafted several recommendations for changes the party could make.

Those recommendations dealt with the party’s fundraising and spending decisions, the need for the party to modernize its data collection, a complete overhaul of its media operation, and criticisms of the lack of diversity in consultants employed by the organizations, according to Politico.

“[The Deep Dive] afforded me the opportunity to truly unpack the DCCC, including its budget, challenges, personnel structure, and national operations,” Maloney wrote in his “Dear Colleague” letter. “Obviously Chairs Lujan and Bustos have made important changes since the Deep Dive, but this unique knowledge base will shorten the learning curve and allow me to hit the ground running immediately.”

See also: New York congressman’s bill would prohibit taxpayer dollars paying for conversion therapy

U.S. Rep. Tony Cárdenas, D-Calif. – Photo: U.S. House of Representatives

On the other hand, Cárdenas, who is largely known for his fundraising prowess, represents a majority-Latino district in the San Fernando Valley and is someone establishment Democrats believe might be able to help the party refocus its efforts on engaging with Latino voters, following President-elect Joe Biden’s underperformance with Latinos, especially among conservative Mexican-American Democrats in Texas’s Rio Grande Valley and among Cuban, Venezuelan, and Central American voters in Miami-Dade County.

Cárdenas told The Hill that, under his leadership, BOLD PAC had helped boost the number of Hispanic members of Congress and raise more than $30 million, accomplishments that would be an asset in a midterm election when the party in power in the White House typically experiences big losses.

“The upcoming midterm elections will not be easy and I won’t sugarcoat the truth — it will be a hell of a fight — but families in all corners of America are counting on us to win again in two years and I refuse to let them or this Caucus down,” Cárdenas wrote in his own letter to House colleagues. “This fight will be an enormous responsibility I humbly embrace because I am confident that I have the experience, commitment, and passion needed to lead us successfully over the finish line.”

Other House members said to be interested in the post are U.S. Reps. Linda Sánchez (D-Calif.), a former Democratic caucus vice chair and former CHC chair, and Marc Veasey (D-Texas), who represents a majority-Latino district in Fort Worth and Dallas.

The closed-door, secret-ballot leadership elections for various leadership posts, including the DCCC job, are scheduled for next week.

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John Riley is the local news reporter for Metro Weekly. He can be reached at jriley@metroweekly.com

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