DCCC chair choice puts House Democrats’ new leader in the hot seat

Incoming House Democratic leader Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, D-N.Y., has a tough decision to make. 

As he prepares to take on the role of House minority leader when Republicans take control of the House of Representatives in January, he’s been tasked with picking the person who’ll be responsible for leading the party’s campaign arm, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC), into the 2024 elections. House Democrats voted in November to make the position an appointed one rather than one elected by caucus members.

The dilemma, however, is that the only two candidates publicly vying for the position — Rep. Ami Bera, D-Calif., and Rep. Tony Cárdenas, D-Calif. — haven’t inspired much enthusiasm from their fellow House Democrats, and have each faced controversy many might find unappealing in someone whose job it is to win elections for the party.

Cárdenas, who previously chaired the Congressional Hispanic Caucus’s campaign arm and enjoys support from the group for the position, was embroiled in a 2018 lawsuit in which a young woman claimed he molested her in 2007 when she was 16. The lawsuit was eventually dropped with prejudice and no money was exchanged, according to a report from the Los Angeles Times. Cárdenas has vehemently denied the allegations. 

Bera has touted his experience defending battleground districts while leading the DCCC’s ‘Frontline Program,’ which supports Democrats’ most vulnerable candidates. However, his father was sentenced to prison for funneling money into his son’s congressional campaign in 2016. Bera denied any knowledge of the money-laundering scheme, according to a report from the Los Angeles Times.

Fox News Digital reached out to a number of moderate and progressive House Democrats to get their thoughts on Jeffries’ looming decision, but those that responded lacked any sort of excitement over who might ultimately get the job, or that they had even been focusing any attention on the selection at all. 

‘To be very honest I don’t know where any of that is. I’m just being very honest — I’ve been consumed with the omnibus and other things,’ Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn., said.

‘I think I’m going to leave that to [Jeffries] to make his decision, but it’s not unlike any other decisions that you make. You’re going to look for the person who can best carry out the mission of the job. But that’s a question for Hakeem Jeffries,’ she added.

Rep. Hank Johnson, D-Ga., similarly said it was something he hadn’t ‘really given much thought to,’ and that he had no preference between either Cárdenas or Bera. 

Rep. Debbie Dingell, D-Mich., didn’t mention either of the named candidates, but expressed the new chair should be someone who is ‘going to deliver for the caucus that will be able to work with everybody and help win the majority back.’

‘I will support whomever Mr. Jeffries finds within his wisdom to select,’ said Rep. Al Green, D-Texas.

Fox News Digital also spoke with some Democratic strategists about the selection process and what considerations Jeffries should be taking into account as he makes his decision.

‘The DCCC chair is an incredibly important, and mostly thankless job,’ Democratic strategist and Fox News contributor Kevin Walling said. ‘The key consideration for the incoming Democratic leader, Hakeem Jeffries, is who can best raise huge sums of campaign donations while at the same time recruit the best class of candidates needed to win back the House.’

‘House Democrats will be on the offense in 2024 and need to flip just a handful of seats to take back the majority. We have the most diverse leadership team Congress has ever seen, and we should build on that energy and excitement when it comes to the new DCCC leader,’ he added.

Walling’s fellow strategist and Fox News contributor Leslie Marshall agreed, but added that Democrats also wanted someone who would win their own re-election bid in two years – unlike outgoing DCCC chair Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney, D-N.Y., who was defeated by his Republican challenger in November.

‘If I were advising him, I would say look at the experience, not just of the two people who’ve come to you, but look around at who you feel would best represent the party but also deliver for the party. And that’s what you really want,’ Marshall said.

‘You want people that are going to be experienced. You want people that are going to be knowledgeable, you want people that are going to be very helpful when it comes to putting forth candidates that can take back the House for Democrats in two years and that can help re-elect Joe Biden or whoever the Democratic nominee might be,’ she said.

Marshall added that it was a hard position for Jeffries to be in to make this selection because different factions of the Democratic Party wanted different things in who would lead those efforts.

Bera, Cárdenas and Jeffries did not respond to Fox News Digital’s requests for comment.

According to Politico, Jeffries is in the process of interviewing the two declared candidates. 

It’s unclear when Jeffries will make the decision, however caucus rules dictate it must be made by February.

Fox News’ Sophia Slacik contributed to this report.

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