Maloney to lead Democrats’ campaign arm

Greg Nash

Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney (D-N.Y.) on Thursday won the contest to lead the House Democrats’ campaign arm in the next Congress, defeating Rep. Tony Cárdenas (D-Calif.) for the tough job of steering the party into what promises to be a difficult midterm cycle in 2022. 

The secret ballot, conducted remotely during a caucus call, was a close 119-107.

Maloney, 54, was just reelected to a fifth term in an upstate New York district that’s historically voted for Republican presidents, including President Trump, and his pitch during the race to head the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) hinged on the notion that he knows how to win in conservative-leaning swing-districts that tend to determine who controls the House.

A prominent member of the moderate New Democrat Coalition, Maloney had secured the backing of a number of leaders of the group heading into the race. He also had open endorsements from several members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus (CHC), including Reps. Linda Sánchez (D-Calif.) and Veronica Escobar (D-Texas), splitting a bloc that largely favored Cárdenas. 

Maloney also brings some diversity to Democratic leadership: He’ll be the only openly gay member of the leadership team, after Rep. David Cicilline (D-R.I.), who currently heads the party’s messaging arm, was defeated by Rep. Katherine Clark (D-Mass.) last month in the race for the No. 4 spot in the next Congress.

In defeating Cárdenas, 57, Maloney toppled a prominent member of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus who bolstered his reputation as a formidable election operative as head of the CHC’s campaign arm, known as Bold PAC, where he oversaw an enormous jump in fundraising and orchestrated an outreach campaign extending well beyond the Hispanic Caucus. The son of Mexican immigrants, Cárdenas was also just reelected to his fifth term in Southern California, where he served previously on the Los Angeles City Council.

Cárdenas’s defeat does not exclude the Hispanic Caucus from the Democrats’ leadership roster next year. Last month, the caucus chose Rep. Pete Aguilar (D-Calif.) to become vice chair of the full Democratic Caucus next year.

The top spot at DCCC opened up unexpectedly last month, when the current chair, Rep. Cheri Bustos (D-Ill.), announced she would not seek a second term after a disappointing cycle for congressional Democrats this year. Despite Joe Biden’s win for the party at the top of the ticket, House Democrats suffered a series of losses down the ballot in battleground districts across the country, from California and New Mexico to New York and Florida.

Those disappointing results came as a shock to Bustos, Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and other party leaders, who had entered Election Day making bold predictions about padding their majority next year with big gains at the polls. Instead, they lost at least 13 incumbent seats, with several more expected as a handful of outstanding races are finalized later this month.

That’s handed Pelosi and the Democrats the smallest majority in generations, and put Republicans in a strong position to recapture the House in two years given that the president’s party has historically lost seats during a midterm election.

And that’s not the only challenge for Democrats in the next cycle. In the wake of the demoralizing House results, Democrats representing the various factions of the party have taken shots at others over who bears the blame. 

The finger-pointing has featured moderates accusing liberals of undermining vulnerable lawmakers by pushing a far-left agenda, including issues like defunding the police and banning fracking, which are radioactive in conservative regions. 

Liberals have fired back, arguing that it was their bold policy agenda that energized the Democratic base, helping Biden secure the biggest prize for the party: defeating President Trump.

Thursday’s leadership elections marked the last for the Democrats in the lame-duck session, after most of the top posts were decided last month.

Tags 2022 midterms Cheri Bustos David Cicilline DCCC Donald Trump Joe Biden Katherine Clark Linda Sanchez Nancy Pelosi Pete Aguilar Veronica Escobar
See all Hill.TV See all Video