Washington – Newly appointed Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chairman Ben Ray Luján officially announced his picks to be his top lieutenants Wednesday, turning to a longtime ally of Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi to succeed Connecticut U.S. Rep. Jim Himes as the group’s finance chairman.
Rep. Chris Van Hollen of Maryland, who had once served as DCCC chairman, will now have the job of raising money for the elections of House Democratic candidates.
Himes said Van Hollen, who represents a wealthy district, would be an effective fundraiser.
“For years, Chris has been a respected and thoughtful leader within the Democratic Caucus,” Himes said. “I consider him a friend, and I have every confidence that he will do a terrific job in his new role.”
When Luján, who represents a New Mexico district, was elected DCCC chairman last year, Himes, D-4th District, said he did not know if he would continue to be finance chairman.
Luján was picked by Pelosi to head the DCCC in November. It was a surprise choice because Himes, who raised a lot of money for Democratic candidates in the last election cycle, was a frontrunner for the job.
But there were protests against Himes’ candidacy from some of the most progressive members of the Democratic Party, who criticized what they viewed as Himes’ too-close relationship with Wall Street. Himes, who said he never lobbied to be DCCC chairman, once worked at Goldman Sachs and has sponsored legislation that some say rolls back key aspects of the Dodd-Frank financial reform law
Himes said his proposals, two of which have become law recently despite strong Democratic opposition, are much-needed fine tuning of Dodd-Frank, a law he says he helped write.
Democrats have lost 66 House seats since 2010, many of them in swing districts that were represented by moderates in the party. The House Democratic caucus is more liberal-leaning because of those losses.
Meanwhile, Himes is considered one of the more moderate members of the caucus, while Lujan belongs to the Congressional Progressive Caucus.
Luján also named Rep. James Clyburn of South Carolina, the highest-ranking African American in Congress, to be the DCCC’s national voter mobilization chairman. Sixteen other House Democrats were named to other positions at the DCCC, none from Connecticut.
The announcement of the new makeup of the DCCC comes as House Democrats travel to Philadelphia for a three-day issues retreat.
All members of Connecticut’s delegation to the U.S. House of Representatives are expected to attend.