DCCC’s Lucinda Guinn hopes to turn tragedy and turmoil into triumph

Texas mass shooting, recent committee upheaval strengthen executive director’s resolve

Lucinda Guinn, the first Latina executive director at the DCCC, has tried to emphasize the importance of diversity on campaign staffs throughout her career. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

This summer, Lucinda Guinn was weighing whether to apply to be the next executive director of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. It was already several months into the 2020 cycle, and the committee staff was in upheaval.

Then tragedy struck her hometown.

On Aug. 3, a gunman targeted the Hispanic community in El Paso, Texas, and opened fire at a Walmart, killing 22 people. Guinn’s mother had been at that same Walmart the day before the shooting.

“That gunman targeted my community. That gunman targeted my family,” Guinn says. “And as soon as that happened, I was committed. I was fully committed. I was like, ‘I’m in, I’m doing this.’ ”

Guinn says these are serious times, “and I want to do everything that I can to make sure that our country moves forward in the right way.”

DCCC Chairwoman Cheri Bustos, the Illinois Democrat, named Guinn as executive director in mid-September. Allison Jaslow, who had held the job and was Bustos’ former campaign manager, left the committee along with other senior staffers amid criticism from lawmakers about a lack of diversity at the DCCC.

[Exodus at the DCCC: Top aides quit House Democrats' campaign arm]

Guinn is the first Latina executive director at the Democrats’ campaign arm, and she has tried to emphasize the importance of diversity on campaign staffs throughout her career. She notes that women who work in politics know what it’s like to be the only woman or the only person of color at the decision-making table.

“Those moments are hard and those moments are lonely,” Guinn says. “But the value that having diverse perspectives at the decision-making table brings to everything from major policy to how campaign budgets are allocated is so pivotal to how we connect with voters and how we’re able to have meaningful conversations with voters.”

Guinn says leading a political committee like the DCCC is akin to drinking from a fire hose. Eight days into her new job, it became more complicated when Speaker Nancy Pelosi launched a “formal” impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump. All but two Democrats have supported the inquiry, raising questions about its political impact, particularly for the 31 House Democrats in districts that Trump won in 2016.

“We can control what we can control, we can be smart, we can be methodical, and we can stay focused,” Guinn says.

Guinn acknowledges she is still getting her “sea legs” as executive director, but she says she does have a thorough understanding of the House map as well as experience in some of the top battlegrounds.

Guinn spent the last six years at EMILY’s List, the group that backs female Democrats who support abortion rights, serving as the vice president of campaigns during the 2018 cycle. She has also done two previous tours at the DCCC and worked as the western political director in 2012.

[EMILY’s List names 2020 House and Senate targets]

Guinn hasn’t always been interested in politics, though.

Her parents, both public school teachers, weren’t very political. She played the French horn and entered the University of Texas at Austin as a music major.

While Guinn was in college, then-Texas Gov. George W. Bush launched his presidential campaign. As her classmates went to volunteer for Bush, Guinn went down an “internet rabbit hole” trying to figure out what Bush meant when he described himself as a “compassionate conservative.”

Guinn did some soul-searching of her own and decided to volunteer for the Travis County Democrats. After that, she was hooked on politics.

Guinn has worked on races at the state, local and federal levels. Protecting the current Democratic majority, which she helped to build working at EMILY’s List, is particularly important to her. The caucus is the most diverse in history, with a historic number of women.

“It didn’t happen overnight in 2018. It took years of work,” Guinn says. “So this majority is personal to me.”

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