The defining characteristic of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee for too many years now has been its well-honed ability to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. Drowning in conventional wisdom, disconnected from realities on the ground, and instinctively inclined to react to Republicans rather than to set its own agenda, the DCCC is such a bumbling enterprise that even the chairman of the Democratic National Committee recently distanced himself from its so-called “strategies.”
When DNC chair Tom Perez was asked his opinion of a ham-handed move by the DCCC to circulate selectively edited and disingenuously framed opposition research against Texas Democrat Laura Moser, a popular progressive running in the party’s crowded primary in the Houston area’s 7th Congressional District, he replied: “I wouldn’t have done it.”
That was a wise response, as grassroots Democrats are figuring out that taking advice from the strikingly inept folks in DC might not make as much sense as following their own instincts in districts like the seventh, where Republican incumbents are vulnerable to defeat. After Moser answered the DNC attack by urging primary voters to reject the counsel of “Washington operatives trying to tell Texans what to do,” the voters did just that.
Moser was one of the two top finishers in the initial primary, beating out several other serious, and well-funded, contenders. A May runoff will feature Moser, a tech-savvy activist who popularized the Daily Action text-messaging tool that became a favorite with resistance campaigners against Trump and Trumpism, and corporate lawyer Lizzie Fletcher, who ran with the backing of Emily’s List and a number of wealthy donors. Moser won 24 percent of Tuesday’s primary vote to 29 percent for Fletcher. The next closest contender, progressive physician Jason Westin, won 19 percent.
There’s a good case to be made that the DCCC helped Moser, whose grassroots fund-raising spiked after the attack. She also earned a late-in-the-race endorsement from Our Revolution, the group formed by Bernie Sanders backers that had established a strong presence in Texas—and when the results came in, Texas populist Jim Hightower, an Our Revolution Board member, said: “The voters of Texas showed they are the only deciders in the race to represent them in Congress.”
That let-Texans-decide theme became a vital part of the Moser campaign’s final appeal to Houston-area Democrats.
Moser closed her campaign with a TV ad titled “Our Turn,” in which she looked straight into the camera and declared: “We have to fix our broken politics―and that starts by rejecting the system where Washington party bosses tell us who to choose.”
At the same time, the Texas Gulf Coast Area Labor Federation, the voice of the Texas AFL-CIO in the Houston area, ripped Fletcher for her association with a law firm that it charged with “undermining the rights and efforts of predominantly immigrant janitorial workers.”
Fletcher’s firm represented a janitorial company that succeeded in preventing workers from unionizing and then sued the Service Employees International Union local that tried to organize the workers. The union group argued that the lawyers were so aggressive in attacking a “Justice for Janitors” initiative that they turned a Texas courtroom into “an anti-union and anti-immigrant circus, inflaming the prejudice of the jury against the janitors and their union.” Fletcher argued that this wasn’t her case and suggested that the AFL-CIO leaders misunderstood how law firms operate.
Needless to say, the runoff race could get rough. Fletcher has plenty of money, and is backed by Emily’s List. She will also, it appears, run as the favorite of the DCCC.
But Moser now has the support not just of Our Revolution but also of other progressive groups, such as Justice Democrats and Democracy for America. DFA chair Jim Dean is already framing the fight as a contest between the failures of the past and a future where Democrats stand clearly on the side of economic and social justice.
Decrying the “Republican-lite hacks at the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee,” Dean said: “The same gutless, corporate playbook that has lost Democrats nearly 1000 elected offices over the last decade isn’t our party’s path to retaking the House in November.”
“Candidates like Laura Moser, who are building smart, grassroots campaigns and mobilizing the New American Majority by fearlessly standing up for inclusive populist priorities like the reproductive rights, gun reform, and Medicare for All, are showing us a way out of the cycle of losses we’ve been stuck in since 2008,” added Dean, who argues that “it’s time that those currently occupying the DCCC’s revolving door to either figure that out, or get the hell out of the way.”