WASHINGTON – Their dwindling majority in peril, House Democrats are entrusting their campaign operations to an analytical, openly gay moderate who’s been an attorney, businessman and five-time winner in his competitive congressional district.
New York Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney, 54, takes over the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee in January, following an unexpectedly dismal election that saw 12 of the party's incumbents defeated and another still trailing narrowly. The party's House majority will be as meager as 222-213 next year, the tightest partisan gap in two decades.
Maloney's primary job is to defy history in the 2022 elections and keep Democrats in control of the House. Perhaps as dauntingly, he must bridge the divide between moderates who argue they're the reason the party holds the majority and progressives who say their more left-leaning ideas are the source of greater political energy and passion.
The task is so formidable and vulnerable to second-guessing that only one other Democrat, Rep. Tony Cardenas of California, sought the position. Maloney defeated him in a close, secret-ballot vote among Democratic lawmakers.
Maloney has work to do. In an interview, he said the party had “some very obvious issues” with its polling, digital advertising and voter outreach. He says Democrats must simplify their messaging and “communicate like human beings.”
Some of those messages are a prime source of internal friction. Moderates including President-elect Joe Biden have criticized calls from some progressives to “defund the police” or to embrace democratic socialism.
Maloney says until he conducts an intensive study similar to one he undertook after House Democrats’ disappointing 2016 performance, he won’t draw conclusions.
“I’m not here to whine about what activists say,” Maloney said. “I’m here to win races.”