Blue Dogs Elect New Blood as Officers

Posted November 17, 2004 at 6:08pm

After losing several senior Members this cycle, the conservative Blue Dog Democrats elected a new slate of younger, up-and-coming leaders Tuesday night.

The 34-member group elected its four new co-chairmen for the next Congress: Rep. Jim Matheson (Utah) as co-chairman of administration, Rep. Jim Cooper (Tenn.) as policy co-chairman, Rep. Dennis Cardoza (Calif.) as communications co-chairman and Rep. Mike Ross (Ark.) as whip.

Of the new leaders, Cooper is the most senior with five terms under his belt.

Going into the Nov. 2 election, the Blue Dogs had 38 members. Of those, five retired and three lost re-election bids. The organization gained four freshmen this cycle.

Cardoza said the new leadership understands and will promote the Blue Dog ideals of fiscal responsibility and budget discipline. He also said the group will likely play a larger role in shaping and strengthening the Democratic Party, given that its members hail from conservative states. In the wake of the 2004 election, a growing number of party leaders argue that Democrats have to improve their reputation in “red states” if they are to take back the House, the Senate and the presidency.

“We are the type of Democrats who can lead us in the most positive direction,” Cardoza said. “But more than that, we are all dedicated to the fiscal integrity of this country. We are going to continue to bring the fiscally responsible government message to the hinterland that we represent and convey that message much more effectively.”

In the Blue Dog leadership, Matheson succeeds Rep. Jim Turner (Texas), who decided to retire after his district was eliminated in redistricting. Cooper succeeds Blue Dog founder and Rep. Charlie Stenholm (Texas), who was defeated after his district was changed significantly in the same re-map.

Cardoza succeeds Rep. Baron Hill (Ind.), who is expected to lose a close race that is currently being recounted.

Ross succeeds Rep. Dennis Moore (Kan.), the only former Blue Dog officer who remains in Congress.

The Blue Dog Steering Committee selected the slate of co-chairman candidates, who were approved unanimously by the entire group.