Meet House Dems' new campaign chief
© Greg Nash

House Minority Leader Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiSchumer calls for military official to act as medical equipment czar Overnight Health Care: Trump resists pressure for nationwide stay-at-home order | Trump open to speaking to Biden about virus response | Fauci gets security detail | Outbreak creates emergency in nursing homes McConnell: Pelosi trying to 'jam' Senate on fourth coronavirus relief bill MORE's (D-Calif.) choice of Rep. Ben Ray Lujan (D-N.M.) as the first Hispanic chairman of House Democrats' political arm gives them a Hispanic leader friendly with the party's progressive wing.

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Lujan's appointment to lead the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee comes as a bit of a surprise — he hadn't been on the shortlist of a half-dozen Democrats that leadership aides had said were in contention for the position.

Lujan brings some assets to the job, though his fundraising prowess has not yet been proven on the national scale.

The 42-year-old gives House Democrats a fresh young face as it looks to try to renew the Obama coalition of younger and minority voters that propelled it to wins in 2008 and 2012.

His heritage and conversational ability in Spanish, which he showed off in a Monday press conference announcing his appointment, could help the party appeal to Hispanic voters who will prove crucial in a number of competitive House races in 2016. He also has appeal with the party's liberal wing as a member of the House Progressive Caucus, though that could be unhelpful with the more centrist, business-minded Democratic donor class.

Lujan also comes from a powerful political family — Lujan's father, Ben Lujan, rose from being a steelworker and union organizer to becoming speaker of the New Mexico statehouse before his 2012 deat.

But the DCCC chairman's job is primarily a fundraising and recruiting one. Lujan hails from a poorer, rural northern New Mexico district. He comes into the job with no natural national fundraising base, though he has better relationships with the energy industry than some other Democrats due to his support of natural gas production in his district.

Lujan faces a daunting challenge. House Democrats have their smallest caucus in at least 80 years following their second rough midterm election in a row, and have no clear path back to the majority following losses of at least 12 seats in this month's elections that leaves them needing 29 seats to win back control.

Democrats are expected to make gains in the next cycle, partly because Republicans have almost maxed out the House map. Whether those gains can make a real difference in how the House is run is unclear.

"Going into 2016 we're going to see more of the electorate involved, excited, ready to work and get ready to get more people elected," Lujan said in a Monday press conference announcing his appointment. "I think we're going to see more Democrats get elected in 2016 and I think those numbers are going to surprise you."

Progressives had sometimes been wary of Lujan's predecessor, outgoing DCCC chairman Steve Israel (D-N.Y.), who had close ties to Wall Street, and some had warned House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) against appointing another centrist Democrat, explicitly calling for her not to nominate Rep. Jim Himes (D-Conn.) to chair the committee. They celebrated Lujan's appointment.

"We thank Leader Pelosi for not selecting Jim Himes to lead the DCCC — thereby rejecting the Wall Street wing of the Democratic Party," Progressive Campaign Change Committee co-founder Adam Green said in a statement after Lujan was announced.

"In order to win key House races, Democrats must run on big, bold, populist ideas like those championed by Elizabeth Warren. This means recruiting economic populist candidates — especially in red and purple states — and working with them to integrate a populist vision into their campaign messaging. The PCCC will be doing this, and we hope to partner with Rep. Ben Ray Luján and others to achieve success in 2016."