“The overall plan for Latino outreach seems to be some 1980s playbook, which doesn’t work anymore.”
Politico reported Monday morning that the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC), “the party’s main election organ,” has delved into chaos as Democratic lawmakers and staff demand changes to address the lack of diversity.
Chairwoman Cheri Bustos (D-IL) returned to Washington, DC, during the recess as many Democrats have expressed anger and disgust to the media.
The anger began to boil over three weeks ago when lawmakers vented their frustrations to Politico:
“There is not one person of color — black or brown, that I’m aware of — at any position of authority or decision-making in the DCCC,” said Rep. Marcia Fudge (D-Ohio), a former chairwoman of the Congressional Black Caucus. “It is shocking, it is shocking, and something needs to be done about it.”
Bustos sought a meeting with Fudge, and Fudge said no.
“Until they show me they are serious about diversity, there’s no reason for me to meet with them,” Fudge said.
And Fudge isn’t alone. Interviews with more than two dozen Democratic lawmakers, aides and strategists detailed months of frustration and unanswered questions about Bustos’ efforts to retain staffers of color in top positions, boost Latino voter outreach and hire firms run by people of color. They said Bustos was tactless when challenged by lawmakers of color.
“The overall plan for Latino outreach seems to be some 1980s playbook, which doesn’t work anymore,” Rep. Raúl Grijalva (D-Ariz.) said.
Politico recently received more statements.
In the most dramatic move so far, Texas Reps. Vicente Gonzalez and Filemon Vela told POLITICO Sunday that Bustos should fire her top aide, DCCC executive director Allison Jaslow.
“The DCCC is now in complete chaos,” the pair said in a statement to POLITICO. “The single most immediate action that Cheri Bustos can take to restore confidence in the organization and to promote diversity is to appoint a qualified person of color, of which there are many, as executive director at once. We find the silence of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus on this issue to be deafening.”
DCCC Jared Smith has tried to reassure the upset lawmakers and staff by explaining that Bustos “plans to approve changes to the structure before she leaves town and wants to get staff input as we work to build a stronger DCCC and make sure our team, from senior leadership on down, reflects the full range of diversity that gives the Democratic Party its strength.”
The DCCC held an emergency meeting on Friday after Politico published its story. Aides described the meeting as “very emotional all around” as “Jaslow cried as she assumed blame for the lack of diversity in the DCCC.” Other members felt the committee “misled them in its handling of a staffer, Tayhlor Coleman, who posted derogatory tweets about LGBTQ people and Latinos nearly 10 years ago.”
The committee held a staff phone call with Bustos on Saturday, but Democrats said she “only ‘briefly’ apologized for the comments” she made about her family background in order to prove she does not hold racist views. She reminded the lawmakers and staff that “her husband is of Mexican descent, her children are half Mexican and her son is marrying an African American woman.”
The Democratic Party has had fights within the ranks splashed across the headlines, especially between Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi. The Democrats know the last thing they need is more infighting.
The lack of diversity has led members to believe this problem could cause problems with fundraising. The Republican Party has blown away the Democrats when it comes to fundraising, but Democrats received good news last week:
Key House campaigns reported massive fundraising hauls for this early stage of the campaign cycle, according to federal disclosures filed this past week by congressional campaigns, with all Democratic freshmen but one outraising their declared Republican challengers and several GOP incumbents lapped by Democratic opponents.
All told, Democratic House candidates raised $17.6 million more than Republicans between April and June, according to a Washington Post analysis of quarterly fundraising reports. That gap could close as more GOP challengers announce their campaigns, but it represents a significant head start for Democrats.
The Democrats hope Bustos will act on their demands to perform an “immediate restructuring” to the DCCC leadership in order to bring back the calm the party desperately needs.
The staffers and sources do not have their hopes up because “it’s unclear what immediate actions, if any, Bustos intends to take.”
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