US Representative Ayanna Pressley is adding to the progressive outcry over a new policy that bars consultants from working with congressional primary challengers if they want to do business with the Democratic campaign arm.
Pressley, who vaulted into Congress by upsetting 20-year incumbent Michael Capuano, said Saturday that the policy could have a “chilling effect” on potential candidates — especially women and people of color.
Under recently unveiled standards, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee said it will not do any business with, “nor recommend to any of its targeted campaigns,” any consultant who works with a primary challenger to a House Democratic Caucus member.
The policy, according to the DCCC, is aimed at helping keep the party’s newly won majority in the House, which “includes supporting and protecting incumbents.”
But it’s quickly drawn heated criticism, especially from progressives who pressed DCCC chair Cheri Bustos last week to reverse it. Pressley has traded text messages with Bustos, according to her aides. But she lamented Saturday that her and others’ concerns “haven’t been received by those calling the shots at the DCCC.”
The party, Pressley said, should not be “creating litmus tests or roadblocks that have a chilling effect on new candidates.”
“If the DCCC enacts this policy to blacklist vendors who work with challengers, we risk undermining an entire universe of potential candidates and vendors — especially women and people of color — whose ideas, energy, and innovation need a place in our party,” Pressley said in a statement.
Pressley pointed to her own victory in the 2018 election and the help she got from people who “were told not to come anywhere near my campaign” — a nod to the effect the policy could have on similar challenges in the future.
“Without their willingness to go against the status quo, it’s very possible that I wouldn’t be in Congress,” she said of her supporters.
“I believe fiercely in the potential of our party, but we cannot credibly lay claim to prioritizing diversity and inclusion when institutions like the DCCC implement policies that threaten to silence new voices and historically marginalized communities,” Pressley said.
Whether the growing consternation forces the DCCC to reverse course is unclear. The committee has so far shown little indication that it intends to strike down the policy after announcing it earlier this month, and Bustos, an Illinois representative, rose to her position, in part, by championing “a new emphasis on incumbent protection.”
Pressley’s comments echo those of other Democrats, including Representative Ro Khanna of California, who slammed it as a “terrible” idea that’s out of touch with voters. He wrote on Twitter that candidates like himself, Pressley, and others “may not have made it to Congress if the DCCC had these blackballing rules in place” when they ran.
“We need to fight until the DCCC reverses it’s [sic] policy to stifle a competition of ideas and have an unfair restraint of trade,” he wrote in another post, which was retweeted by Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, who, like Pressley, upset a longtime incumbent last year to win her seat.
Matt Stout can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.