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Dems sound alarm on TX-24 primary
Bob Salera | May 21, 2020

Looks like DCCC Chair Cheri Bustos has another Texas-size mess on her hands!

In case you missed it…

House Dems clash over DCCC’s refusal to back Afro Latina in Texas primary


Laura Barron-Lopez and Ally Mutnick

May 21, 2020


Texas’ 24th Congressional District is precisely the kind of seat Democrats are targeting in November to cement or pad their House majority: A longtime Republican stronghold in the Dallas-Fort Worth suburbs where shifting demographics have put it in play.

But a dispute over whether the party should embrace an Afro Latina educator with a hardscrabble upbringing — or remain neutral as she squares off against a female military veteran — is dividing House Democrats ahead of a July 14 primary runoff.

The campaign arms for the Hispanic, Black, Asian and progressive caucuses are urging the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee to throw its weight behind Candace Valenzuela, a former school board member who was homeless as a child. They want the DCCC to include Valenzuela in its coveted Red to Blue program, which would boost her profile by directing donors, as well as the DCCC’s own resources, to her campaign.

But the DCCC declined.

Valenzuela is running against Air Force veteran Kim Olson, who won the first round of the primary by 10 points. The longtime incumbent, GOP Rep. Kenny Marchant, is retiring after winning by just 3 points in 2018 against an underfunded candidate. POLITICO rates the general election contest a toss-up.

“We urge you and the DCCC to nominate Candace Valenzuela, running in Texas’ 24th congressional district, to Red-to-Blue,” the minority lawmakers wrote in an April 24 letter obtained by POLITICO. “As a party that proudly fights for all Americans, we should continue to strive for the diverse representation our communities deserve. Texas’ 24th congressional district is a majority-minority district and should be represented by someone with ties to the community.“

The DCCC does not routinely endorse in open primaries, wary of alienating local voters by unfairly tipping the scales for a Washington-backed candidate. But the committee did so in a number of key 2018 races, including one in Texas, when officials thought the outcome of the primary would affect the party’s ability to win the seat. In this case, DCCC Chair Cheri Bustos has signaled confidence in both Democratic hopefuls.

The unusual ask comes from senior lawmakers who have been critical of Bustos’ record on diversity and willingness to back progressive candidates in the past. The letter comes nearly one year after Black and Hispanic Caucus members voiced displeasure with the DCCC’s handling of diversity in its ranks and efforts to prioritize minority candidates. Progressive lawmakers on the letter only recently came to a detente with Bustos over a “blacklist” that inhibits consultants from working with candidates who primary a sitting member of the Democratic Caucus.

The political action committees representing the minority and progressive caucuses said they backed Valenzuela out of concern that Olson would lose to Republican nominee Beth Van Duyne in the general election, said Rep. Tony Cárdenas (D-Calif.), who heads the Hispanic Caucus’ campaign arm.

“It’s very rare and probably unprecedented that a Democratic candidate has received a letter sent to the DCCC, to support that person in a primary,” Cárdenas said in an interview.

The letter was signed by the heads of BOLD PAC, Congressional Black Caucus PAC, Aspire PAC, and the Congressional Progressive Caucus PAC: Cárdenas, Gregory Meeks (N.Y.), Grace Meng (N.Y.), Mark Pocan (Wis.), Pramila Jayapal (Wash.), and Jamie Raskin (Md.).

“We are disappointed that as of now, the DCCC is not getting involved in this primary,” Cárdenas said. “We have to live our values and remain committed to electing people who reflect the district and experiences of the communities we’re fighting to represent.”

Meeks echoed Cárdenas’ disappointment in a statement, noting that the “national exposure” that comes with being in Red to Blue would have helped their preferred candidate.

Bustos responded to the letter and connected with most of the signers, according to a DCCC aide. She made it clear that the committee would remain neutral in the race. The committee has worked closely with both Olson and Valenzuela and has internal data showing either could win the seat in November.

“The DCCC has not weighed in on any competitive Democratic primaries in the 2020 election cycle,” DCCC spokesman Cole Leiter said in a statement. “As she would with any requests from Members of the [House Democratic] Caucus, Chairwoman Bustos connected individually with the interested members, heard their thoughts, and took it into consideration.”

The PACs for minority caucuses formed a partnership in 2018 to jointly endorse candidates. The members wanted to focus largely on minority-majority districts where, for instance, “the Hispanic population might not be enough to be the margin of victory, but if you mobilize the black, Hispanic and Asian, electorate, maybe it would make a difference,” said Meng, who leads the campaign arm for the Asian Pacific American Caucus.

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