The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, the campaign arm of House Democrats, is launching a multi-year, multi-million dollar strategy to earn support from people of color and younger voters ahead of the 2020 cycle. At the heart of it is a message: they are not assuming those voters will automatically turn out for them.
“We don’t want to take any voter for granted,” DCCC Chairwoman Rep. Cheri Bustos (D-IL) told The Daily Beast. “We know that it’s not good enough to show up the last month and ask for people’s votes.”
By chance, DCCC’s roll out, called the “Cycle of Engagement” program, works well with Bustos’ upcoming travel: She is heading to South Carolina, a state with a prominent African American voter bloc, to keynote the state party’s annual fundraising banquet.
The DCCC does not typically invest heavily in off-cycle years. But campaign committee officials note that getting a head start now could make a major difference in picking up new seats in 2020.
“Never before have they started engaging this early,” Bustos said of the committee she chairs, acknowledging that part of expanding the majority in the House depends on giving minorities and younger voters something that inspires them to turn up at the ballot box.
The “Cycle of Engagement” program builds on a concept the committee launched in March, where they placed nearly 60 grassroots organizers in key areas they believe are winnable across the country, like Phoenix, Orange County, Miami, and suburbs surrounding Houston, Las Vegas, and Detroit.
Without giving an exact figure, Bustos said the DCCC is making “significant” early investments in polling, focus groups, and other research-based projects to specifically address the concerns of people of color and younger Americans.
While 2018 proved successful for a variety of down-ballot minority candidates—including younger people—the DCCC has faced criticism for what some Democrats believe is too heavy a focus on converting working class white and suburban voters in districts that voted for President Trump in 2016. Bustos herself represents one of those districts in northwestern Illinois, which went for Trump in the presidential election.
But when pressed if this effort was, in part, a way to address those concerns, Bustos said flatly it’s not. “This isn’t a response to any criticism,” she said. “We have to inspire people.”
Leading up to November 2020, the group is also planning to invest in an “extensive paid media” campaign, as well as expanding its texting and mobile outreach programs that are already in the works to target minorities and younger voters. In one case, the group recently launched multiple Spanish ads putting pressure on Reps. Scott Tipton (R-CO) and Will Hurd (R-TX), two vulnerable Republicans in districts the DCCC sees as winnable.
The digital ad targeting Hurd is expected to reach thousands of Spanish-speaking voters in Texas’ 23rd Congressional District. “We know that we can win that seat,” Bustos said.
Targeting Hurd’s Texas district is part of a coordinated effort to address the unique concerns of immigrant populations at a time when Trump is doubling down on his inflammatory rhetoric. Bustos told The Daily Beast that immigration is “absolutely” going to be a priority of the DCCC in 2020, and that part of the “Cycle of Engagement” program is to hold Republican members of Congress accountable on that issue.
Bustos said she has “every interest” in turning up the pressure on Republicans on areas like Trump’s family separation policy at the Southern border.
“We’re talking about the tip of the iceberg,” she said.
In addition, Bustos said the DCCC is looking to hire more staff and consultants that reflect the communities they’re hoping to target. The DCCC has promoted a longtime staffer, Tayhlor Coleman, to serve as director of the new program and has committed to work primarily with political consultants of color on the project.
“We’ll have the most diverse staff of candidates, vendors, and advisers that anyone has ever seen come out of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee,” she said.