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OpEdNews Op Eds    H3'ed 3/1/18

Why Are the D.C. Dems Attacking a Progressive Candidate for Congress in Texas?

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From Alternet

Is the attack a sign of what awaits other progressives running for Congress in 2018?

The Democratic Party's internal civil war is continuing in Texas.

In the first primary elections of 2018, Washington-based operatives overseeing its congressional campaigns have taken the unusual step of publicly trashing a progressive newcomer, Laura Moser, one of seven candidates running in Texas' seventh House district representing parts of Houston.

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) did so by posting a negative endorsement -- opposition research usually used to discourage an opponent's supporters -- on its website, characterizing Moser as an opportunist who would lose to the Republican incumbent in the fall. It cited a tongue-and-cheek article Moser wrote for the Washingtonian, a D.C. publication, where she lived before returning to her home state to run. In it, Moser chided people complaining about Washington, joking that she would "rather have my teeth pulled out without anesthesia" than move back to Paris, Texas (where her grandparents lived; she's from Houston). The DCCC also said her husband's Washington-based political consulting firm was making money off her race.

The attack roused progressive groups to rally behind Moser, an ex-freelance journalist, who, after Donald Trump won the presidency, created Daily Action, a text-messaging program giving frustrated people a task to do each day. Since the DCCC's post surfaced Thursday, Moser has raised $86,700 from 4,515 people in every state, with one-sixth coming from Houston, her press secretary, Freeland Ellis, said Monday. The campaign also crossed the 1,000-person volunteer threshold, the Texas Tribune reported. Taken together, Moser's campaign has become a progressive rallying cry, somewhat akin to 2017's candidacy of Jon Ossoff in George's sixth House district (which Ossoff narrowly lost after a runoff). At its heart, the fight pits new progressive blood against centrist party insiders.

"Why would the DCCC do such an awful thing to a strong Democratic candidate in a critical race? There are many possible reasons, but one likely reason could be that Laura Moser stood up to the DCCC last summer in support of abortion rights," Democracy For America Chair Jim Dean said in another email, referring to a Vogue article she wrote in August. "When DCCC chair Ben Ray Luja'n said it was acceptable to support anti-abortion candidates, Laura Moser strongly disagreed -- and said so publicly. DFA applauded Laura's strong stand in support of abortion rights. Now the DCCC wants to destroy her chances of winning the Texas Democratic primary on March 6."

"DCCC's actions unfortunately reveal a party establishment cracking down on leaders who challenge their way of doing things," wrote Waleed Shahid, spokesman for Justice Democrats, which has endorsed Moser and more than 50 other progressives running for Congress this spring. "They believe we need Democrats who can cater to the agenda of Wall Street and the wealthy donor class and now they're putting their thumbs on the scale."

The DCCC attack is the latest example of a national apparatus that doesn't want progressives in its midst. Democrats need to pick up 24 House seats to win a majority next November. The DCCC's current list of endorsees on its "red-to-blue" page is filled with more mainstream candidates: former prosecutors, ex-Obama administration officials, military veterans and educators.

In some ways, that's not surprising. The DCCC is a campaign organization that's run by the party's congressional incumbents. It has that insider and mainstream bias. But the attack on Moser, which Vox aptly described as "torching a Texas Democrat they're afraid will win the primary," comes amid a Democratic National Committee that's been slow to adopt its post-Democratic National Convention reforms sought by the party's Berniecrat wing. The attack raises questions about whether Moser's candidacy will be the first among many the DCCC will oppose this spring as its state primaries approach.

The latter question is perhaps most important as it transcends whatever will unfold in Moser's primary race, where there are seven Democrats running. Emily's List, which backs pro-choice candidates, has endorsed Lizzie Pannill Fletcher, who was described by the Intercept as a "corporate lawyer who is backed by Houston mega-donor Sherry Merfish." On the other hand, it seems unlikely the DCCC would be attacking Moser if its polling did not show she could win.

DCCC spokesperson Meredith Kelly did not reply to an AlterNet email asking whether the attack is a one-off occurrence or a sign of what's to come if progressives do well in their races -- but party insiders believe others would fare better in the fall.

Kelly's comments to Vox implied this might not be a one-time event. "When there's a truly disqualified general election candidate that would eliminate our ability to flip a district blue, that's a time when it becomes necessary to get involved in these primaries," Kelly said. "This district is too important to let it go without trying."

Moser wrote a reply to the attack, which Democracy For America quickly sent out.

"Last night, I was shocked to find myself the subject of an unprecedented attack by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee," Moser wrote. "The basis was a single quote that was blatantly taken out of context -- a silly joke twisted into a desperate, clumsy smear. As this campaign has progressed, it has become clear that many of the bigwigs decided long ago who they wanted to represent you. They had narrowed it down to the same kinds of corporate candidates that they always run -- with their ties to big banks, big law firms, and big money."

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Steven Rosenfeld  covers democracy issues for AlterNet. He is a longtime print and broadcast journalist and has reported for National Public Radio, Monitor Radio, Marketplace,  and many newspapers. (more...)
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