Progressive group fundraises for Dem candidate Hoyer urged to drop out

Progressive group fundraises for Dem candidate Hoyer urged to drop out
© Greg Nash

A national progressive group is fundraising for a Democratic congressional candidate who secretly taped House Minority Whip Steny HoyerSteny Hamilton HoyerThree scenarios for how leadership races could play out in the House House Dem: Party's aging leaders is 'a problem' Clyburn: I'll run for Speaker if Pelosi doesn't have enough votes to win MORE (D-Md.) urging him to drop out of a contested Democratic primary

The Progressive Change Campaign Committee (PCCC) is asking its members to make a donation for Democrat Levi Tillemann, a former Obama administration official who’s running to the left in a primary against leading candidate Jason Crow, an attorney and Army veteran. The winner of the primary will face Rep. Mike CoffmanMichael (Mike) Howard CoffmanColorado couple fighting to stop adopted 4-year-old daughter from being deported Dems make big play for House in California Election Countdown: Ohio special election fight heats up | Takeaways from Georgia primaries | Key primaries ahead in August | Blankenship files for third-party bid in West Virginia | More Dem candidates say they won't back Pelosi MORE (R-Colo.), a top target for Democrats.

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Tillemann secretly taped a conversation with Hoyer late last year in Denver, when Hoyer encouraged him to step aside, according to the recording obtained by The Intercept.

In that conversation, Hoyer told Tillemann that the head of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) has a “policy” that the committee rallies around a candidate it believes can prevail in a general election and provides them with support.

“Yeah, I’m for Crow. I am for Crow because a judgment was made very early on. I didn’t know Crow. I didn’t participate in the decision. But a decision was made early on by the Colorado delegation,” Hoyer said, according to the recorded conversation. That delegation is made up of the three House Democrats who represent Colorado.

In a comment to The Intercept, a spokeswoman for Hoyer said the office wouldn't comment on private meetings.

“Mr. Hoyer supports Crow and donated to him last year, but he hasn’t engaged in the race since then,” Hoyer spokeswoman Mariel Saez told the publication. The DCCC declined to comment to The Intercept.

"Establishment figures like Steny Hoyer and the so-called New Democrats hurt Democratic chances of taking back the House every time they support uninspiring, corporate candidates with unpopular ideas,” PCCC co-founder Stephanie Taylor said in a statement.

“There is a battle for the heart and soul of the Democratic Party, and Steny Hoyer and his corporate cronies already lost. They don't represent the future, and it's time for them to step aside and make room for a new generation of leadership — one that inspires and motivates the base instead of depressing it."

Another progressive group, Democracy for America (DFA), also criticized Hoyer over the secret recording, calling on him to either resign or be removed from Democratic leadership.

Tillemann will square off against Crow in the June 26 primary. Coffman has been a perennial target for Democrats, particularly after Democratic nominee Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonArizona GOP Senate candidate defends bus tour with far-right activist Santorum: Mueller could avoid charges of McCarthyism by investigating DOJ, FBI Giuliani claims McGahn was a 'strong witness' for Trump MORE won his district by nearly 9 points in the 2016 presidential election.

Crow has been embraced by national Democrats and was added to the DCCC’s “Red to Blue” list last year. The designation is not an endorsement, though it means the committee will help those candidates with fundraising and organizational support.

PCCC and other national progressive groups have previously vented frustrations with the DCCC, who they believe is unfairly intervening in crowded House primaries.

The DCCC waded into a Texas House primary in early March. Prior to that contest, the committee published opposition research about activist Laura Moser, who had been backed by several liberal groups. But Moser still went on to advance to the May 22 runoff, which will determine the Democratic nomination.

The DCCC defended its decision to attack Moser, arguing that Moser would be a poor general election candidate against Rep. John CulbersonJohn Abney CulbersonDems eyeing smaller magic number for House majority Dem, GOP groups prepare spending blitz for midterms Election Countdown: Family separation policy may haunt GOP in November | Why Republican candidates are bracing for surprises | House Dems rake in record May haul | 'Dumpster fire' ad goes viral MORE (R). Clinton also narrowly won his district last cycle. 

At a press briefing on Thursday, Pelosi defended Hoyer and the way the national party handles contested primaries.

“I don’t know that a person can tape a person without the person’s consent and then release it to the press,” Pelosi told reporters on Thursday.

“In terms of candidates and campaigns, I don’t see anything inappropriate in what Mr. Hoyer was engaged in — a conversation about the realities of life in the race as to who can make the general election.”

Updated at 3:10 p.m.