Pennsylvania member-elect Chrissy Houlahan is launching a bid for Democratic leadership, arguing that the nearly 60 incoming freshmen should be represented as the caucus crafts its messaging strategy for defending its newly obtained majority.
“I think that people recognize that there is this great big class of people who are coming in with kind of fresh experience and fresh legs and fresh ideas and that if we would like to maintain the majority that we need to make sure that we’re listening to everybody,” she said in an interview.
Houlahan is running for one of the three co-chair slots on the Democratic Policy and Communications Committee, the messaging arm of the caucus.
There are at least five candidates in that race already: Reps Debbie Dingell of Michigan, Matt Cartwright of Pennsylvania, Adriano Espaillat of New York and John Garamendi and Ted Lieu of California. But Houlahan is the only one running for the incoming freshman class.
“We need someone who’s been through this recently to be able to have that conversation about what it is really like to be a candidate or a congressperson in the post-Trump environment,” she said.
Houlahan understands that her late entry in the race puts her a little behind but she believes her eclectic background as an engineer, veteran, businesswoman and educator provide her with a unique skill set to offer the DPCC.
“Many of the people who will be running in this presidential year will be either be protecting or running newly in seats [where] we’re probably going to be needing to talk about all of those issues I have experience with,” she said.
“It will be important that we’re able to maintain the messaging that I think is what the Democratic Party is all about, which is you know jobs and education, opportunity for everyone and healthcare, the planet,” Houlahan added. “Those are the kitchen table issues that we should all be talking about.”
Houlahan was one of Democrats’ star recruits of the 2018 cycle — among the first 11 candidates named to the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee’s Red to Blue program — but she didn’t end up having much of a challenge winning in Pennsylvania’s 6th District after incumbent Republican Rep. Ryan Costello decided not to seek re-election after the state’s redistricting.
Still, she said she learned a lot during her two-year campaign in a district that has a voter composition of 40 percent Democrats, 40 percent Republicans and 20 percent Independents and regional diversity of the Philadelphia suburbs, urban area of Reading and rural farmland.
“I understand the rigors of a difficult race in a large media market. With so many Frontline races in 2020, it will be critical to have voices crafting our message who understand the challenges of a highly competitive district,” Houlahan said in a letter sent to her Democratic colleagues Sunday announcing her candidacy.
Houlihan also cites her extensive business and marketing experience as an asset she can bring to the DPCC.
“Having built several brands over the last 25 years (AND 1, B Corporation, Springboard Collaborative), I understand the importance of clear and inspiring messaging delivered by capable, trained messengers,” she said in the letter.
“Critical to our collective success in 2020 will be the development of a deep bench of ‘ambassadors’ capable of carefully navigating our identity as pragmatic, solutions-oriented, servant-leaders who will provide an important check on the current administration,” she said.
Houlahan already has ideas for tools that the DPCC can use to help prepare members to be those ambassadors, like “video trainings; a curated, shared Google Drive; a coordinated barnstorming tour targeting swing districts; topical expert webinars; one-on-one skills based training.”
Showing her range of messaging tools, Houlahan didn’t just announce her candidacy for DPCC in a letter. She has a video announcement as well.
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