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Rep. Suzan DelBene, the new chair of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, cites data in making the case for why she expects her party to win back the House in 2024.
Her favorite data point: Democrats only need to gain control of five seats to flip the chamber, and there are 18 Republicans in districts President Joe Biden won. That compares favorably to her party defending only five Democratic incumbents representing districts President Donald Trump carried.
“We need five more and the roadmap is there,” she said in one of her first interviews since taking over the party’s campaign arm last month. That, of course, presumes that the party’s shaky incumbents will prevail in races that are starting out as tossups.
A plus for Democrats: fundraising is off to a strong start, with the DCCC raking in $8 million in January, a record for the month in a non-election year.
A former Microsoft executive who represents the Seattle suburbs, DelBene became DCCC chair after Democrats altered rules to allow the post to be appointed by the party’s leader rather than be elected. She hadn’t publicly campaigned for the job, although she previously led DCCC efforts to protect the most vulnerable Democrats in 2020 and served as finance co-chair in 2018.
In the interview, DelBene, a former head of the centrist New Democrat Coalition, weighed in on topics including the vocabulary to use against Republicans and DCCC involvement in primaries.
This interview has been edited and condensed for brevity and clarity.
Bloomberg Government: What is the Democrats’ game plan for 2024 to win back the House?
DelBene: We’re going to take back the majority, that’s the number one goal.
We had a very strong midterm, exceeded all expectations there. And we know we only have five more seats that we need to be in the majority. We have 18 seats across the country that Republicans are in that Biden won in 2020. So clearly, that’s a battlefield right there to start off with. But we have five seats that Democrats are in that Trump won.
If you look at the math there, clearly, there’s an incredible opportunity.
(See the list of split districts in this BGOV OnPoint.)
BGOV: Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) said that he asked Biden to stop referring to Republicans as “extreme MAGA Republicans.” Should Democrats drop that label?
DelBene: He has been moving more and more to enable the extremists in his party. That’s what happened in the Speaker’s race, we saw that.
If you want to govern, then come to the table and govern. But right now we’ve seen legislation they brought forward from the most extreme parts of their party.
BGOV: Why did Leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.) choose you for the DCCC role?
DelBene: You’ll have to ask him his decision making in this process, but I think is very, very important that our new leader and our new leadership team could make sure that they had the partner they wanted in terms of running the DCCC.
What I bring to the table is I’ve worked in big organizations before. So in terms of making sure that we have a strong team and are putting together a strong strategy, that’s work that I’ve done in the past.
I’ve been a frontline member, I understand the challenges that our frontline workers have.
But this isn’t just about one person being the DCCC chair. This is about the work that we need to do across the caucus to take back to the majority.
And so it’s a partnership that I have, not only with our leadership team, but with all members of the Democratic caucus, because it’s going to be the work that all of us do. So I might have one formal position to help do my part. But I think this really is about all of us helping make sure that we support folks across the country.
BGOV: Do you see the DCCC playing in primaries the cycle?
DelBene: Generally, the DCCC isn’t the one who’s involved in primaries.
Sometimes there have been places where we have unique scenarios and jungle primaries and things like that, that in terms of making sure that we have strong candidates that are coming through.
BGOV: What is your reaction to Rep. George Santos (R-N.Y.)?
DelBene: First of all, George Santos is a fraud. And we still haven’t seen Republicans hold him accountable, or bring his case forward when they had information.
This is a message not only for folks in terms of candidates and research, but also making sure that the news media and others are getting that information out, because even I think folks who were trying to provide some information, not all of that got out.
BGOV: Former Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) is a force when it comes to fundraising, but she’s no longer in a leadership position. How are you thinking about making up that shortfall?
DelBene: We had a really strong January, raised $8 million in January, a record January for the DCCC and the off year, so we’re coming out strong.
Even though we are coming off of a time where we are now in the minority, folks feel like we exceeded expectations, that we have the momentum. And you feel that when we travel across the country, and there’s been strong support, and obviously, we had a record breaking January.
To contact the reporter on this story: Emily Wilkins in Washington at email@example.com