One of the most bizarre moments of the 2018 Congressional campaign is when the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC), the body designated to elect House Democrats, launched a heavy-handed intervention into the Democratic primary in Texas’s 7th Congressional District.
They posted a research document slamming progressive candidate Laura Moser, an unusually public intervention in a congressional race. They pointed to some writing Moser had done as a private individual that, for instance, mocked the town of Paris, Texas.
The DCCC’s press operation at that time was run by Meredith Kelly, who told the Texas Tribune, “Unfortunately, Laura Moser’s outright disgust for life in Texas disqualifies her as a general election candidate, and would rob voters of their opportunity to flip Texas’ 7th in November.”
The intervention was widely seen as designed to benefit Lizzie Pannill Fletcher, a corporate lawyer who worked at an anti-union firm.
The intervention backfired, bolstering Moser’s fundraising and helping her make it to a runoff. But in that runoff, Fletcher was victorious, and then defeated incumbent Republican Senator John Culberson in the general election.
For progressive critics of the DCCC, the episode confirmed their fear that the organization was being used to prevent the Democratic Party from shifting left. For the Democratic establishment, their intervention helped select a more electable candidate.
At the start of the year, New York Democratic Senator and presidential aspirant Kirsten Gillibrand hired Kelly to run communications for her bid.
Gillibrand has developed a reputation of being somewhat of a political chameleon, adjusting her positions for short-term electoral needs. But regardless of where Gillibrand herself publicly stands at any point in time, the adage that “personnel is policy” holds true. In the conflict between the Democratic establishment and progressives, she hired an operative who administered interventions on behalf of the establishment.