Moulton looks to recruit new generation of Dem leaders
Rep. Seth Moulton (D-Mass.) is expanding his political footprint in an effort to help his party take back the House. At the same time, he hopes to inject some young blood into the caucus.
His political action committee, Serve America, previously only endorse military veterans, a nod to Moulton’s own Marine Corps service. But a handful of his 12 new endorsements have never served in the military, instead meeting an expanded definition of “service.”
The move is part of Moulton’s effort to seize on unrest among a faction of the Democratic Party with its current crop of leaders. A second-term lawmaker, he’s carving out a unique space for himself defined by his call for House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) to step aside from leadership.
“There are some amazing leaders out there representing a new generation of Democratic leaders in the party that don’t happen to be veterans themselves,” Moulton told a small group of reporters during a Tuesday interview.
“The Democratic Party is in the worst position it’s been in since the 1900s — in Washington, the House, the Senate, but also in state legislatures across the country. … We need new Democratic leaders not just in Washington, but in state houses and local races.”
Thirteen of the candidates endorsed by Moulton have made it through primaries, including many in tough intraparty contests. His new list of endorsed candidates includes veterans: Texas’s MJ Hegar, an Air Force pilot whose recent campaign ad went viral, and Josh Welle, a Navy veteran running in New Jersey.
But he’s also backing other candidates without ties to the military, like Iowa’s Abby Finkenauer; New Jersey’s Andy Kim and Tom Malinowski; Ohio’s Aftab Pureval; and Illinois’s Lauren Underwood. And he’s throwing his support to three local candidates: Texas agriculture commissioner candidate Kim Olson; state legislative hopefuls Casey Weinstein and Joe Tate from Ohio and Michigan respectively; and Adrian Perkins, who’s running to be the mayor of Shreveport, La.
Moulton and his team stressed their endorsement isn’t just a stamp of approval to be used on a candidate’s website and forgotten.
He plans to travel to Michigan and Ohio later this month to attend events with some of the candidates, and will head to New Hampshire in late July for an event with another. He’s already hosted meetings and joint fundraisers for his endorsed candidates, while acting as a sounding board for them on whatever problems might come up on the campaign trail.
He’s also been active in get-out-the-vote efforts, touching down in the Pittsburgh area to rally voters ahead of Rep. Conor Lamb’s (D) special election victory earlier this year and and tasking volunteers with sending text messages to potential voters ahead of Amy McGrath’s (D) successful House primary last month.
The trip to New Hampshire will undoubtedly raise eyebrows among those who believe one aspect of Moulton’s midterm planning is building a network in case of a future presidential bid.
Moulton joined Congress in 2015 as a decorated Marine veteran who knocked out longtime incumbent Democratic Rep. John Tierney (Mass.). During that bid, most of the party’s establishment backed the incumbent. In hindsight, the race was the first salvo in Moulton’s continuing battle against party leadership.
A decorated veteran with an impressive résumé that includes three degrees from Harvard, Moulton’s criticism of Pelosi has endeared him to some who also want a change, while frustrating others who see him as using that criticism to gain a platform.
Moulton brushed aside any attempt to connect his New Hampshire trip to campaign for Marine veteran and congressional candidate Maura Sullivan (D) with any White House ambitions.
“I’m sure you guys will do a great job of telling me how people will read into it,” he told reporters.
“I’m going to support Maura Sullivan, who is an extraordinary candidate.”
He made a similar argument when asked if the recent primary defeat of House Democratic Caucus Chairman Joseph Crowley (N.Y.) at the hands of 28-year-old challenger Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez makes him more likely to challenge Pelosi for Speaker.
“Literally, when the chance is zero, anything times zero is zero,” he said. “My strength is not the insider politics, that’s frankly why I don’t think I’d be a very good Speaker.”
Moulton wasn’t interested in naming whom he wants to see as Speaker if the Democrats take over the House. But he sketched out a diagram for what that leader should do: be “firmly focused on the future,” “strong and smart on national security” and willing to tackle waste and make changes to programs, even ones the party holds dear, like ObamaCare.
And he said the arguments for Democrats to cling to Pelosi aren’t compelling to him.
“One of the things I don’t understand about Leader Pelosi is when she says, ‘I need to stay here because we need a woman’s voice at the table,’ which is to suggest there are no other women in the party who are great leaders,” he said.
“What about [Illinois Rep.] Cheri Bustos? What about [Ohio Rep.] Marcia Fudge? … What about [Alabama Rep.] Terri Sewell?”
Pointing to Rep. Tim Ryan’s (D-Ohio) recent unsuccessful challenge to Pelosi, he argued that there are “extraordinary leaders in our party” who haven’t been heard from on the national stage.
“When the American people get an opportunity to just hear some of these new Democratic leaders, they are going to be very impressed,” Moulton said.