House Democratic leadership is dominated by coastal states, has a 'geographic diversity" problem

  • There are no Midwestern Democrats in the House leadership, which has been frustrating to some Democrats.
  • An overwhelming majority of the Democrats running for leadership positions in the House are from coastal states.
  • Illinois Rep. Cheri Bustos tells INSIDER, “I think it’s critical that we send a message to Democrats all over this country that we’re not leaving behind any group, any region, that rural America can be represented in our leadership.”

WASHINGTON – In the House Democratic leadership, which is in the process of transitioning into the majority after making considerable gains in the midterm elections, a lack of representation of lawmakers from Midwestern states has been a particular point of contention among Democrats from America’s heartland.

Every leadership candidate from speaker of the House on down to the Democratic Caucus chair is from a state on the coasts, except for two: New Mexico Rep. Ben Ray Luján, who is vying for assistant majority leader, and Illinois Rep. Cheri Bustos, who is running to chair the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee in the 2020 cycle.


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In addition, two Democrats – Reps. Debbie Dingell of Michigan and Matt Cartwright of Pennsylvania – are running for spots on the Democratic Policy and Communications Committee.

In announcing her bid, Dingell wrote to her Democratic colleagues that “it is very important that the Heartland be one of the perspectives represented by one of the three co-chairs.”

Acknowledging the lack of Midwestern representation from Democrats, Bustos told INSIDER, “I think it’s critical that we send a message to Democrats all over this country that we’re not leaving behind any group, any region, that rural America can be represented in our leadership.”

“I think the leadership team matters,” she added. “I know the focus is everybody gets asked about the speaker’s race, but the leadership team matters in all sorts of ways. And one of those is geographic diversity.”

And other Democrats from Midwestern states have acknowledged the lack of Midwestern representation has become a sticking point for them.

Ohio Rep. Tim Ryan, who unsuccessfully challenged Pelosi for the speakership in the aftermath of Donald Trump’s ascension to the presidency, told INSIDER Tuesday evening that bringing on more Midwesterners is “absolutely” a priority, but that for any recruitment, he is still “working on it.”

Multiple Democratic aides for Midwestern lawmakers lamented their absence from the leadership team and characterised it as “highly frustrating.”

The prospect of Midwestern Democrats jumping in for leadership races is dim

But the prospect of others jumping into the Democratic leadership races is unlikely. Bustos said some members “have to feel like they’re ready and want to move up in leadership.”

“I would say if I’m elected to [DCCC chair] it is my job to make sure that there are other people who come from the center part of our country that we are nurturing and mentoring so people are ready,” she added.

One Democratic aide said one possible scenario to enable more new faces entering into various leadership bids would be if Pelosi can’t muster the votes for speaker, but that would result in “a scramble at the top.”

Pelosi has remained confident she can win back the speaker’s gavel that has eluded her for the past eight years, despite a small but strong faction of Democrats who want new leadership.

Anti-Pelosi Democrats like Reps. Seth Moulton of Massachusetts and Filomen Vela of Texas have reiterated they “100 per cent” have enough votes to block Pelosi from becoming speaker, CNN reported.

While Moulton said, “We are trying to do the right thing for the party by solving this ahead of time,” their contingent of lawmakers is still trying to gather enough signatures for a letter showing large opposition to Pelosi within the caucus.

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