It’s a tough job, but it can be a steppingstone for ambitious and politically savvy lawmakers.
Rep. Steve Israel (N.Y.) may or may not take on another term at the helm of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. If he steps down, Reps. Allyson Schwartz (Pa.) or Jared Polis (Colo.) are possible replacements.
The DCCC chairmanship requires extensive travel and fundraising and is regarded as a brutal, often thankless job. But the chairman is appointed by the House Democratic leader, and the position has produced party superstars, including former Rep. Rahm Emanuel (Ill.), who went on to be Caucus chairman and White House chief of staff under President Barack Obama and is now Chicago’s mayor. House Budget ranking member Chris Van Hollen (Md.) directed the DCCC during the 2008 and 2010 election cycles and is a top Obama surrogate.
Democrats say Israel has worked hard in the position. But redistricting and the political tides have most elections handicappers predicting few, if any, gains for Democrats in the House.
Schwartz is often mentioned as a potential statewide candidate in the Keystone State. She is a prolific fundraiser and has been deeply involved in DCCC recruiting, and she might find it tough to say no should Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (Calif.) asks her to take the job.
Polis would not require a hard sell from Pelosi.
He is competing with Reps. Joe Crowley (N.Y.) and Barbara Lee (Calif.) for Caucus vice chairman, but Crowley increasingly appears to be in command of the race. The DCCC chairmanship is considered more prestigious than Caucus vice chairman, and Polis has displayed a zeal for political fundraising.
Polis offers broad ideological appeal as a member of the Congressional Progressive Caucus and the New Democrat Coalition. He is openly gay, which would appeal to a key constituency.
As a co-chairman of the DCCC’s Red to Blue program, Polis has worked to ensure campaign funds are spent wisely by Democratic challengers.
“We don’t just help them raise a bunch of money and then let them waste it,” Polis told Roll Call recently. “We really want to make sure they spend it on things that work. Even to get into the Red to Blue, they have to have a campaign budget, a campaign plan that we approve that has, yes, how much they raise, but also how they spend it. Meaning that they need to know all the pricing of their media market and what they need to spend on ads to win and mail and field and everything else.”
Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., right, hugs Harold Schaitberger, General President of the International Association of Fire Fighters, after the Congressman spoke at the IAFF's Legislative Conference General Session at the Hyatt Regency on Capitol Hill, March 9, 2015. The day featured addresses by members of Congress and Vice President Joe Biden.