A few miles from the Capitol, in what feels like a getaway from political turmoil, lies a piece of vintage British culture in Washington.
Former Capitol Hill staffer turned lobbyist Daphna Peled left her political career to start Pillar & Post, an antique shop in Georgetown that sells British antique furniture and decor such as tea sets, pillows and artwork.
The timing couldn’t have been better.
“I feel so lucky because when I left before the election, most people thought Hillary [Clinton] was going to win and it was going to be a continuation of the previous administration,” Peled said. “Everything’s dramatically changed and there’s so much volatility right now and upheaval, and to not be a part of that but rather to kind of be in my own little world … the timing worked out so well.”
Peled, 46, left the National Cable and Telecommunications Association, where she spent eight years, in October. She signed the lease for 1647 Wisconsin Ave. NW in February, and the shop has been fully open for a few weeks.
“After the election, people were shell-shocked for a while and are still kind of recovering and figuring out how to move ahead. It seems to me, at least now from the outside, that things are a little bit more partisan and just very hectic,” she said.
Peled lobbied as a Democrat on telecom issues, which, she said, have never been particularly partisan with a few exceptions.
“From what I can tell now, things are definitely more partisan and tumultuous,” she said.
But she has kept up with her relationships from the political world.
“Everybody’s so interested in what I’m doing,” she said. “It’s exciting for people to hear different things and not the same old thing of, what are you lobbying on?”
After graduating from Johns Hopkins University and Georgetown University Law Center, Peled was a public defender in Baltimore and then practiced litigation for a firm in Prince George’s County.
“This is kind of my second big career change, if you think about it, but this is much, much bigger,” she said.
She came to Capitol Hill in 1999 to work on telecom issues for Michigan Rep. Bart Stupak. In 2003, she moved to the Senate side to work for North Dakota Sen. Byron L. Dorgan on his Commerce Committee portfolio.
She later worked for the Motion Picture Association of America for a year, and started with the NCTA in 2008.
“I always knew I didn’t want to lobby forever and that I had interests outside of telecom,” she said. “I’ve always had an interest in decor and decorating. Before my parents came to live in Georgetown, they lived in London for 15 years. I would always go over and visit them. I loved the British look and I’d always bring things back to my house.”
She added, “I decided to give a shop a go. I didn’t think that there was something like that here. There’s a lot of Swedish antiques, there’s a lot of French antiques but nobody kind of sells the British look and we combine antiques with modern British brands and accessories.”
She is the owner and president and her mother is vice president.
“This is a big gamble,” she said. “I opened the shop with the belief [that] these are things I love. So, will this be a long-term success? That’s definitely my hope but it’s a big leap.”
Even as a budget agreement remains elusive for Congress, House lawmakers have reached a couple of decisions: a significant funding boost for defense and around $511 billion for all else—largely ignoring President Donald Trump’s fiscal 2018 budget request, say’s CQ’s Budget Tracker editor David Lerman.
SANDY SPRINGS, Ga. — It’s Election Day in Georgia, so this column goes to print before we know the outcome of the 6th District special election to replace Dr. Tom Price in Congress. But whether Karen Handel, the Republican, pulls off a win or Jon Ossoff, the Democrat, manages an upset, it is well-understood here that the politics of this once solidly Republican district have changed, almost overnight.
The fact that Ossoff became so competitive, so quickly in this race was almost entirely because of Donald Trump. Trump was certainly the reason Democratic activists across the country pumped $20 million into a district where the biggest tourist attraction is a giant red chicken in front of a vintage KFC. Trump was also the reason countless Ossoff volunteers told me they were working for him “because at least it is something I could do” after Trump won in November.
Even local GOP operatives readily admitted that their problem was the president. And for the first time in nearly 40 years, Democrats in the district had a solution in the form of Ossoff, a 30-year-old former congressional staffer who may well be the prototype for a new kind of Southern Democrat to run against sitting Republicans in the New South.
While rural Democrats such as Sen. Sam Nunn and Gov. and Sen. Zell Miller once dominated Georgia and the South, Democrats were wiped out across the country in 2002 and beyond, including one of my old bosses, former Sen. Max Cleland.
I had also worked for Nunn before Cleland, and I watched over the course of my time in the Senate as Southern Democrats became fewer and fewer. People at home used to tell me they were “Sam Nunn Democrats,” meaning they were socially moderate, fiscally conservative and pro-defense. By the time Cleland lost his race in 2002, people at home wanted to know how I had become so wayward that I ended up “a liberal.”
My politics hadn’t changed, but the Democratic brand had. Instead of meaning a person was pro-business, pro-defense and socially moderate, the term “Southern Democrat” began to mean simply liberal, until it eventually meant something worse — nothing at all. I was so turned off by politics by the 2002 race, I decided to go into journalism, where at least no one would call me names. Oh, well.
As my first act of journalism, I wrote an entire book proposal titled, “Are the Yellow Dogs Done Barking?” Growing up in Georgia, people were known as “Yellow Dog Democrats,” meaning they would vote for anyone, even a yellow dog, if he had a “D” by his name on the ballot. My book would be an attempt to find out if Democrats in the South were dead as a governing party forever.
I never took my book proposal to agents in 2003 because the answer seemed so obvious at the time. Republicans had come to so dominate the South, it seemed impossible to envision a day when a Democrat could run even a competitive race statewide, or in the majority-white congressional districts that Republican legislatures had specifically drawn to stay in Republican hands for a generation.
But Ossoff’s campaign marks the first I’ve seen of what I’d call a New Southern Democrat, a different breed of Southern Democrat. But instead of a bird-hunting, Labrador version of the old Yellow Dog Democrat, Ossoff is more Labradoodle, a friendly companion well-suited to living in a (Southern) suburban condo. He’s a Yellow Dog Democrat for millennial voters, the multicultural, entrepreneurial voters who are pouring into Southern suburbs for jobs and schools and voting in a way their senior citizen neighbors never did.
Instead of running as a liberal or a conservative, Ossoff ran a different kind of campaign, tailored to the sort of majority-white, rapidly changing Southern suburban district Democrats will have to win in the future.
Instead of “Stronger Together,” the two words I heard Ossoff say most often on the campaign trail were “humble and kind.” Other than the fact that “Humble and Kind” is literally the title of a country song, it is also the message that resonated with Republican moms I met in the district, who were so bothered by President Trump’s tweeting, they compared their strategies of how they (successfully) kept their children from doing the same.
Ossoff was also very business-focused. His ads talked about how to make the Atlanta suburbs a tech corridor, and went on, at great length, about Washington wasting everybody’s money. Ironically, Ossoff didn’t hammer the president, nor did he talk about Russia. If the Hillary Clinton campaign could say the same, maybe they would all be in the White House instead of on LinkedIn.
Interestingly, Ossoff is just one of a slate of young, new Southern Democrats trying to find a way back into power. Teresa Tomlinson, the mayor of Columbus, Georgia, wrote an op-ed last week for The Daily Beast about being a “pragmatic progressive.” That answer to George W. Bush’s “compassionate conservative” respects government, works with Republicans, and, according to Tomlinson, “accepts science, technology and fact.” Snaps on that, House GOP.
One of the many criticisms of Ossoff that I’ve heard from Republican leaders in the 6th District is that he is “trying to trick people into thinking he’s a Republican.” They don’t believe what Ossoff is selling — that a person could really be pro-business and socially liberal at the same time. But that is precisely the appeal for the 10 percent of Republicans who voted for Ossoff in the April primary and put him within striking distance to win the seat Tuesday night.
To answer my question 15 years later, no, the Yellow Dogs aren’t done barking.
They don’t look like the old Southern Democrats, but the South doesn’t look the way it used to either. Whichever party figures that out will win in 2018 and beyond.
Roll Call columnist Patricia Murphy covers national politics for The Daily Beast. Previously, she was the Capitol Hill bureau chief for Politics Daily and founder and editor of Citizen Jane Politics. Follow her on Twitter @1PatriciaMurphy.
It’s not good to start your tenure in Congress with a misdemeanor assault charge, but that’s where Republican Greg Gianforte finds himself. It also doesn’t mean he is immediately and automatically vulnerable in 2018.
On May 25, Gianforte won a special election to replace Republican Ryan Zinke (who vacated his seat to become secretary of the Interior) in a race that received some national attention but went viral after an altercation between the candidate and a reporter resulted in assault body-slamming allegations and formal charges. Gianforte pleaded guilty on June 12 and narrowly avoided a few days in jail with 40 hours of community service and 20 hours of anger management counseling.
While taking on an incumbent member of Congress with legal problems looks enticing (particularly since two-thirds of special election voters cast their ballots early, before the incident), it won’t be an easy road for Democrats in Montana next year.
Rob Quist’s 44 percent in the recent special election was the best showing of any Democratic U.S. House candidate in Montana since 2000. And Donald Trump just trounced Hillary Clinton in the state by 21 points last fall.
Democrats are still determined to field a credible challenger to Gianforte. The early speculation is focused on state Reps. Amanda Curtis and Kelly McCarthy, according to a June 2 piece by Robert Yoon for Inside Elections. Both legislators lost the 2017 nomination to Quist in a contest that was decided by local party members instead of in a primary. Curtis was also the 2014 nominee for U.S. Senate against then-Rep. Steve Daines, who won the seat 58 percent to 40 percent.
Other previous House hopefuls mentioned as possible 2018 contenders are John Lewis, a former aide to Sen. Max Baucus, who lost the seat to Republican Ryan Zinke in 2014, and Dan West, a former Capitol Hill staffer and Obama administration appointee at NASA, who also sought the 2017 nomination.
Democrats will need a solid candidate because the party can’t count on Gianforte’s assault charge overcoming the partisan lean of the state.
In April 2014, New York Republican Rep. Michael G. Grimm was indicted on 20 counts of fraud and conspiracy. He won re-election that fall, 55 percent to 42 percent, in the state’s 11th District, which President Barack Obama carried by 4 points in the previous election. Grimm resigned in January 2015 after his conviction.
Further back in August 2005, the FBI raided Louisiana Rep. William J. Jefferson’s home on suspicion of corruption. Agents found $90,000 in cash wrapped in aluminum foil in the Democrat’s freezer. But the congressman won re-election the following year, 57 percent to 43 percent over then-state Rep. Karen Carter, a fellow Democrat. It wasn’t until six months later that Jefferson was indicted on corruption charges. But he still won the Democratic renomination in 2008 before narrowly losing in the general election, 49.6 percent to 46.8 percent to Republican Ahn “Joseph” Cao.
There is still time for the dust to settle in Montana and for there to be more clarity about the national political climate, but Gianforte will start his 2018 re-election race with an advantage. The initial Inside Elections race rating in Montana’s at-large district is Leans Republican.