Panicked Democrats are scrambling for a plan to handle insurgent candidates as more upend the 2018 midterms

Alex Wong/Getty ImagesRep. Joe Crowley of New York.
  • The Democrats’ top campaign arm is debating how to address the growing number of candidates not willing to back current party leadership.
  • House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi is taking an all-of-the-above approach, raising money for every Democrat she can.

WASHINGTON – As more Democrats upend the old guard within the House ranks, a debate is ensuing about how to approach these new candidates who might not be inclined to toe the party line when they arrive in Congress next year.

A handful of candidates have emerged throughout the 2018 primaries who have said they would not back the current Democratic leadership. While House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi still holds considerable sway over the conference, the fears of a new insurgency accelerated on Tuesday when Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, 28, defeated Joe Crowley, a 10-term representative who serves as the Democratic Caucus chairman, in New York.

The ousting of Crowley by a far-left political novice sent shockwaves through Washington. The morning after, a group of Democratic lawmakers at the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee convened a meeting, where a debate ensued about how to approach the new firebrand Democrats.

According to a source with knowledge of the meeting, the room was fairly split, with some lawmakers arguing that candidates who are not willing to pledge loyalty to leadership should not receive support. Among those backing that idea was Rep. Lois Frankel of Florida, something The New York Times also reported. A spokesman for the DCCC did not respond to a request for comment.

But top Democratic brass in the House have mixed feelings. For House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer, a potential contender for the next speaker, it is a problem he would rather address in the new year – after Democrats take back the majority, if all goes according to plan.

For how to address candidates at odds with the longtime Washington hierarchy at the moment, Hoyer said it was a process in courting their favour.

“The way I respond is: If I can’t get you today, I hope I get you tomorrow,” Hoyer said during a meeting with reporters on Tuesday. “And I’m going to argue about the proposition tomorrow.

“Each member has to decide how best to represent their district, and what is in the best interests of their constituents, and what they think are the best policies being pursued by their country,” he added. “Leadership obviously has a view on that – we try to convince members that that view is correct and work together, and we can adopt policies that will effect those objectives.”

But Pelosi, the top Democrat in the House, is intent on backing everyone across the board.

Pelosi invoked the former Oakland Raiders owner Al Davis, telling reporters that her approach to all Democratic nominees is “Just win, baby.”

“We just want to win. That’s the simplest answer of all,” she said. “When I’m not in the Capitol and I’m someplace else, I’m raising money to elect those very people. Everything is at stake in our country. People all see the urgency of it. They want to take responsibility for it. That gives us opportunity to win. So I just say, ‘Just win, baby.'”

But Pelosi also noted that her fundraising efforts and support for all Democratic candidates “has nothing to do with any decisions by the DCCC.”

Pelosi, who has led House Democrats for more than a decade, regularly hauls in big money for candidates. In 2018, that extends to those who might not support her once they arrive in Congress.

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