Townsend re-emerged recently as head of a new Democratic group, American Bridge, which is meant to counter the rise of cash-fueled outside Republican groups. It won’t be a surprise if Newsom, Kentucky Finance Secretary Jonathan Miller and Maryland Attorney General Doug Gansler govern their states one day.
“It’s an unusual and exciting collection of political talent and a lot of them have contributed an awful lot to this country,” From said.
But what’s striking about the list is the dearth of individuals who have succeeded to the halls of Congress.
Of the 100 rising stars from a decade ago, only two are Members (California Reps. Adam Schiff and Susan Davis) and two are Senators (Arkansas’ Mark Pryor of and Florida’s Bill Nelson, who faces a challenging re-election race in 2012).
A handful of new Democrats from the DLC’s 2003 list of “100 to watch” made it to the Capitol, including Gabrielle Giffords (Ariz.), Ben Chandler (Ky.), Allyson Schwartz (Pa.), Chris Coons (Del.), Ken Salazar (Colo.) and even Obama, who was just a state Senator from Illinois at the time.
But the road is littered with unsuccessful Senate and Congressional candidates from the original list including Berkowitz, Bradbury, Hynes, Georgia’s Michael Thurmond, Ohio’s Eric Fingerhut, Illinois’ Lauren Beth Gash, Colorado’s Bob Hagedorn, Washington’s Laura Ruderman and Florida’s Linda Chapin.
Then-Clark County Commissioner Dario Herrera also made the “100 to watch” list and ran unsuccessfully for Congress in 2002 in the newly created 3rd district of Nevada, but he ran into bigger problems. The rising Democratic star was convicted of 17 counts of corruption charges in a strip club scandal and spent a couple years in prison.
Herrera isn’t the only rising star to face legal trouble.
Then-state Rep. Kwame Kilpatrick went on to become the youngest mayor in the history of Detroit, earning brief fame. His star faded considerably when he was convicted on an array of charges related to sexually charged text messaging with an employee. Kilpatrick is in federal prison in Michigan.
Spitzer resigned from the governorship after a prostitution scandal, but he was never officially charged or convicted of anything and now co-hosts a show on CNN. Easley, the former North Carolina governor, just pleaded guilty to a felony charge related to a campaign finance report. He’ll likely pay a fine and won’t be incarcerated.
“We made some good guesses and some wrong guesses,” said From, who is no longer involved in the day-to-day operations at the DLC. But, overall, he looked back at the list with some pride, even though less than half of the 100 will hold any elected office next year.
With the conservative Blue Dog Coalition facing depleted numbers in the new Congress following the Republican wave election and with liberal groups getting most of the publicity for putting pressure on Obama, it’s unclear what role new Democrats will play in the party.