Metro Weekly

Democrats elect openly gay congressman as chairman of party’s campaign arm

Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney, married father of three, will try to help party rebound from recent election losses

sean patrick maloney, democrat, gay, congress
Sean Patrick Maloney – Photo courtesy of the Office of Rep. Maloney

U.S. House Democrats have elected openly gay Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney (D-N.Y.) to serve as chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee for the 2022 cycle.

Maloney defeated Rep. Tony Cárdenas (D-Calif.) by a margin of 119 votes to 107. The bulk of the New Yorker’s pitch had centered around his ability to win re-election in an exurban and rural district in the Hudson Valley that was won by President Trump, and his ability to replicate the kinds of strategy, tactics, and messaging he had employed for the party’s candidates in Republican-held districts.

In an interview with Metro Weekly, Maloney touted his experience working on the so-called “Deep Dive,” or a post-2016 analysis he conducted to find where Democrats’ efforts to win the presidency, House, and Senate fell short that year.

He also promised to employ a data-driven approach, examining messages or electoral strategies employed by congressional Democrats this year that failed.

“The most intelligent answer is I don’t know what went wrong, but I know how to find out,” he said. “…It’s not my job to speculate. My job is to figure this stuff out and get a battle plan that works… As I like to say, “if you’re not God, bring data.'”

Maloney, a father of three who was first-elected to Congress in 2012, was one of the first members of Congress to be openly gay, married, and raising children, and would be the first openly gay DCCC chair.

Maloney told CNN that his life “depends on the success of our progressives values,” and that he lives the “tension” between standing for such values and winning races, saying: “We need to do both.”

In a statement, Maloney said he was honored to be elected by his colleagues.

“There is so much on the line for American families right now. As we work to recover and rebuild from this pandemic, it will be essential that we have strong leaders in Congress who will fight for the health and success of every American,” he said, vowing to work closely with the incoming Biden administration.

“A strong Democratic majority in 2022 will be essential to our fight,” Maloney added. “I will work every day to improve our campaign operations, connect with voters across lines of difference, protect our incumbents, and expand our majority. I thank my peers for their confidence, and can’t wait to roll up my sleeves and get to work.”

Maloney’s task of keeping the House in Democratic hands will be an uphill battle, as the party of the incumbent president generally loses seats in the first midterm election. He will also have to play the roll of peacemaker within the caucus as he attempts to recruit candidates to run for various seats.

It’s a monumental undertaking for a party that lost seats even as its presidential nominee Joe Biden, unseated President Donald Trump last month. And there is currently bad blood between some members of the caucus, much of it centering around Democrats’ failure to increase their majority.

Progressives argue the party has been too cozy with corporate donors, that it doesn’t spend enough time talking about economic issues like wages, debt, or the social safety net, and that its leaders have pursued affluent, moderate, mostly-white suburbanites at the expense of other ideological and demographic groups.

By contrast, moderates and more corporate-friendly Democrats blame the depletion of their caucus on the rhetoric and visibility of their more left-leaning colleagues, who have pushed policies that upset the status quo, like Medicare for All, the Green New Deal, or defunding the police. And both factions believe that Democratic candidates were done a disservice by inaccurate polling.

Related: Sean Patrick Maloney, openly gay congressman, on why he wants to be Democrats’ elections “quarterback” in 2022

But Maloney doesn’t cast blame on one faction or one specific cause, telling Metro Weekly that Democrats need to expand their outreach and awareness of diverse points of view, in order to avoid biases that may be unintentionally reinforced by their social circles and the media they consume. 

“My philosophy is that Democrats need to work on our relationship with the voters who don’t already agree with us, and that is partly about issues, but it’s also about showing up and and caring about other people’s priorities as much as we care about our own,” he said. “If I have a different perspective, it’s because I am under no illusion that I represent a lot of people who have a very different narrative and who have a very different view of a lot of things and who get their news somewhere else.”

LGBTQ Victory Fund, the national organization dedicated to electing out LGBTQ people to public office, praised Maloney’s election as DCCC chair.

“There is enormous power in Congressional Democrats choosing an out gay man to serve as chair, especially after an election cycle where anti-LGBTQ attacks on candidates became the norm,” Annise Parker, the president and CEO of LGBTQ Victory Fund, said in a statement in which she accused National Republican Campaign Committee, the DCCC’s mirror image, of employing anti-LGBTQ rhetoric in a number of its campaigns.

See also: Gay congressman loses bid for Assistant Speaker in Democrats’ House leadership elections

“Sean believes running diverse candidates makes the Democratic party more competitive and will prioritize ensuring they build on their majority with candidates that reflect the demographics of America,” Parker added. “He will be a chair who forcefully stands behind candidates who face anti-LGBTQ, racist or sexist attacks and will refuse to allow those tactics to succeed. We are thrilled Democrats in Congress elected Sean and we know they made the right choice.”

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