Campaigns

DCCC to meet with progressives over controversial ‘blacklist’ policy

Party leaders face grassroots pressure to revise incumbent-protection policy

DCCC Chair Cheri Bustos, D- Ill., is facing pressure from progressives over a policy meant to shield incumbents from primary challengers. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chairman Cheri Bustos, facing mounting pressure from the party's left, has agreed to a DCCC meeting with progressive groups who want her to ditch a controversial policy meant to shield incumbents from primary challenges, according to representatives from the progressive group Our Revolution. 

Bustos has so far given no public indication that the committee would relax its stance against working with consultants and other operatives who assist candidates who challenge incumbent House Democrats.

But progressive activists who have spoken with her in recent days said they were heartened that she has left the door open to the discussion.

“It’s important to show her willingness to carry on conversations,” said Richard Rodriguez, a national board member of Our Revolution, who met with Bustos Thursday. “I’m sure she is also feeling some political pressure.”

He pointed out that the meeting coincided with news that more than 40 College Democrats chapters had joined a boycott  of the DCCC over the vendor policy. 

“I’m eager that she is willing to amend the policy,” Rodriguez said.

He then revised the statement, saying, “I’m optimistically eager.”

Our Revolution is a progressive political action organization affiliated with Vermonth Sen. Bernie Sanders that grew out of his challenge to Hillary Clinton for the 2016 presidential nomination.

Aide cites Bustos ‘transparency’

DCCC spokesman Cole Leiter said Bustos “regularly meets,” with “stakeholders” in her effort to protect and expand the House Democratic majority.

“Chairwoman Bustos has made transparency a top priority in her leadership of the DCCC,” he said.

Leiter said only DCCC staff would attend the upcoming meeting in DC. 

Rodriguez and another representative from Our Revolution spent about 30 minutes with Bustos and her political director, Haleigh Hoff, in Illinois. Bustos agreed to meet a second time in Washington, D.C., with representatives from the DCCC and national progressive leaders chosen by Our Revolution, Rodriguez said.

She also made a point of saying that the policy was not a ban or a “blacklist,” as it has been described by activists, he said.

At the Thursday meeting, Rodriguez and Chicago chapter chairman Clem Balanoff presented Bustos with a petition signed by 30,000 Our Revolution members that laid out their arguments against the policy, he said.

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“We talked about how this policy could cause a divide within the party,” Rodriguez said. “We talked about how many of the most dynamic figures in the party got in the party got their start by taking on incumbents in primaries.”

One of the candidates they discussed was Marie Newman, who is waging her second primary challenge against Rep. Daniel Lipinski in Illinois’ 3rd District. Lipinski is one of the last remaining pro-life Democrats in Congress.

Newman came within 2 percentage points of ousting Lipinski in 2018, when she had the support of a coalition of pro-abortion rights and progressive groups upset over Lipinski’s centrist and socially conservative views.

As she prepares for the 2020 primary, Newman has complained that the vendor policy is already hurting her campaign. She told Politico Friday that four consultants had dropped her in the month since it was announced.

That report was followed by an announcement from the progressive group Democracy for America that it would endorse her primary campaign.

“The DCCC is doing tremendous damage to the Democratic brand and the progressive values it’s supposed to represent every single day they continue their blacklist policy that protects anti-choice, anti-LGBTQ, corporate Democrats like Dan Lipinksi,” Democracy for America Chairman Charles Chamberlain said in a news release.Watch: AOC and SNL source of laughs at 2019 Congressional Dinner

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