Former Rep. Joe Baca (D-Calif.) said Wednesday he believes there is a concerted effort by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) to discredit his bid to return to Congress.
He provided The Hill with copies of endorsement forms that he says show that Assistant Democratic Leader James Clyburn (D-S.C.) and Rep. Terri Sewell (D-Ala.) did endorse his campaign before contesting that fact this week.
Baca said there could be no confusion about what the lawmakers were signing.
“No. No. No. They knew what I was running for,” Baca said. “It is the pressure that they are getting from DCCC, and their guy is way behind right now.”
Earlier this week, Clyburn and Sewell disputed their inclusion on a list of 30 congressional endorsements that Baca posted on his website last week.
A Clyburn spokesman told The Washington Post that the South Carolina Democrat is staying out of the primary and any reports of an endorsement are incorrect.
Clyburn’s office told The Hill after the endorsement forms were published Wednesday night that the congressman was unaware that another Democratic candidate — Redlands, Calif., Mayor Pete Aguilar — was competing for the seat at the time Clyburn signed Baca’s endorsement form.
“Mr. Clyburn never intended to endorse Joe Baca over another Democrat,” Clyburn’s spokesman Patrick Devlin said. “During Mr. Baca’s April visit to D.C., Mr. Clyburn’s understanding was he was the lone Democrat in the race. That no longer being the case, we have asked the Baca campaign to remove his name from their website and expect that they will do so.”
Also on Tuesday, Sewell’s office told Roll Call the congresswoman is actually supporting Aguilar.
Sewell’s office did not respond to a request for comment.
Twelve of the 30 members contacted by The Hill verified that they had endorsed Baca. All other members did not respond to a request for comment.
Baca, who lost reelection last year in a Democrat vs. Democrat battle against Rep. Gloria Negrete McLeod, is seeking to win back a seat in Congress despite facing opposition from the Democratic Party.
The DCCC has backed Aguilar as its preferred Democratic nominee. The DCCC Chairman Steve Israel (D-N.Y.) last week told The Hill he considers Aguilar to be "the better candidate."
“Steve Israel, I don’t think he likes me,” Baca said. “Because he is the one that anointed Pete Aguilar.”
The DCCC did not comment for this story.
In the documents provided by Baca on Wednesday, Clyburn's and Sewell's handwritten names appear under a banner that reads, “Yes, I am happy to endorse Congressman Joe Baca.”
Baca said he received the signatures from Clyburn and Sewell while in Washington in April. The documents are dated in handwriting April 15-17.
Baca said he doesn’t mind taking their names off his endorsement list but said any claims that they did not endorse him are untrue.
Clyburn’s office told The Hill it has already asked to be removed from the list. But Baca said he would only do so if Clyburn himself asks.
“Not a staffer,” Baca said. “I went to them personally. I didn’t go through a staffer to get a signature. I went to them personally. If Jim Clyburn personally says take my name off, I don’t mind."
According to reports, Baca has had dustups over disputed endorsements early in his career. In a 1988 assembly race, a Baca aide was convicted of fabricating then-Sen. Edward Kennedy’s (D-Mass.) signature on an endorsement form. Baca said at the time he didn’t have knowledge of the incident.
Former President Bill Clinton also disputed an endorsement Baca said he personally obtained for his son, who was running for a California assembly seat in 2004, the Los Angeles Times reported at the time.
Baca is facing off in California’s “jungle primary” against Aguilar and incumbent GOP Rep. Gary Miller.
The two candidates with the most votes advance to the general election, regardless of party affiliation, in the new system.
Miller is expected to advance with Republican votes, leaving Baca and Aguilar to battle for the other spot in the general election. Last year, two Republicans in the district advanced.
Baca lost to fellow Democrat Negrete McLeod in 2012 amid a campaign to defeat him by New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg. Bloomberg poured $3 million into the race, in part, because of Baca's high grades with the National Rifle Association.
Instead of mounting a rematch against Negrete McLeod, Baca decided to enter the race to unseat Miller, who sits in one of the GOP’s most vulnerable seats.
If the election were held today, Baca said he would top Miller and Aguilar would be running a distant third.
“The man is behind and they are trying to discredit me,” Baca said.
—This report was updated at 11:26 p.m.