House Democrats elected Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney of New York to serve as the chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, giving him the difficult task of protecting their slim majority in 2022, when the President’s party typically loses dozens of seats.
Maloney defeated California Rep. Tony Cárdenas, pledging that he could replicate his own success in a Trump-won district in the lower Hudson Valley across the country.
Maloney, who was first elected to Congress in 2012, married his longtime partner in 2014 and has three kids. He recently told CNN that his life “depends on the success of our progressive values,” and that he lives the “tension” between standing for them and winning races.
“We need to do both,” he said.
In the 2020 elections, Republicans wiped out more than half of the Democrats’ 35-seat majority in the House. Maloney said the party’s “biggest challenge” is to build relationships with “the people we don’t already agree with, while not selling out the core principles we stand for.”
When asked if he was encouraged by the 2020 results, Maloney said, “I’m encouraged that as a gay guy with an interracial family, I won a Trump district five times.”
Democrats took back the House in 2018 by charging into red districts. But many Republican candidates in 2020 clearly benefited from President Donald Trump’s presence on the ballot.
Their worse than expected results led to rounds of recriminations within the Democratic Party. Democrats blamed pollsters for inaccurate data, activists for promoting unpopular proposals like defunding the police, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi for not taking enough responsibility and their own supporters for funneling money to candidates rather than organizations on the ground.
Two young members from opposite ends of the ideological spectrum within the party — New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the liberal firebrand, and Pennsylvania Rep. Conor Lamb, a moderate from a district Trump won in 2016, fought in The New York Times over messaging and campaign tactics. And Illinois Rep. Cheri Bustos stepped down from her position as DCCC chair.
Part of Maloney’s pitch was his experience running the DCCC’s “Deep Dive” after the 2016 election, which helped put the organization on its path to gain dozens of seats in 2018.
When asked whether Democrats’ political tactics need to change in 2022, Maloney said he would conduct a “similar process” to his comprehensive review, bringing “all voices to the table” to look at the data.
“I think there’s a lot of people with opinions and nobody really knows,” said Maloney. “I like to say, if you’re not God, bring data.”
Last election cycle, the DCCC put in place a policy to blacklist campaign consultants who worked for challenger candidates, which upset some members on the Left. Maloney said it had “unintended consequences” but that the DCCC’s job is to protect incumbents.
“I think we need to reexamine everything we’re doing, and we shouldn’t be afraid to,” Maloney said.
When asked whether proposals from the Left — like defunding the police and banning fracking — hurt Democratic candidates, Maloney told CNN that the House “didn’t pass a single piece of legislation that had anything to do with defunding the police” and “never pushed socialism.”
“Those are caricatures that our opponents used often with great dishonesty,” Maloney told CNN. “I don’t plan to enhance the attack by echoing it. There are tough messages being thrown at you in every challenging election cycle. My job is not to whine about it. My job is to win.”
Cárdenas campaigned on his work as chairman of the Hispanic Caucus’ BOLD PAC, but the group’s process to endorse California Secretary of State Alex Padilla for Vice President-elect Kamala Harris’ Senate seat rubbed some members the wrong way. California Rep. Linda Sánchez, and another Hispanic Caucus member, Texas Rep. Veronica Escobar, were among those whipping Democrats to support Maloney.
“I’m supporting Sean Patrick Maloney because he has the depth of experience to remake the DCCC, and he’s personally committed to me that he will make the Latino vote a priority,” Sánchez told CNN.