Progressive activists are furious with Democratic Party leaders who have boosted establishment Democrats over their left-wing opponents in primary races across the country.
The Intercept on Thursday published audio of House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer pressuring progressive candidate Levi Tillemann to drop out of a Colorado primary, to clear the field for establishment candidate Jason Crow.
Tillemann secretly taped the conversation with Hoyer in December 2017 before leaking it this week to The Intercept.
Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) chairman Ben Ray Lujan had a policy that “early on, we’d try to agree on a candidate who we thought could win the general and give the candidate all the help we could give them,” Hoyer explained in the audio.
Crow was one of 11 Democratic candidates named to the DCCC’s “Red to Blue” list in November 2017. Candidates on the list received fundraising and organizational support from the DCCC, giving them a boost over their primary opponents.
“Staying out of primaries sounds small-D democratic, very intellectual, and very interesting,” Hoyer said. “But it was clear that it was our policy and our hope that, early on, try to come to an agreement on a candidate that we thought could win the general, and to give that candidate all the help we could give them.”
“I am for Crow because a judgment was made very early on. I didn’t know Crow. I didn’t participate in the decision. But a decision was made early on by the Colorado delegation,” Hoyer added.
“So your position is, a decision was made very early on before voters had a say, and that’s fine because the DCCC knows better than the voters of the 6th Congressional District, and we should line up behind that candidate?” Tillemann asked.
“That’s certainly a consequence of our decision,” Hoyer answered.
Several progressive groups slammed the DCCC on Thursday, outraged about an uneven playing field.
Charles Chamberlain, executive director for left-wing group Democracy for America, slammed Hoyer in a scathing statement on Thursday and called on the veteran Democrat to resign.
“We saw what happens when Democratic Party leaders put their fingers on the scale in primaries in 2006 through 2016, when we lost nearly 1,000 elected offices up and down the ballot,” Chamberlain said.
“Steny Hoyer likes to spend a lot of time talking to progressive candidates about electoral viability, but after his exposure in these recordings, it’s time for him to recognize that only thing that’s truly not viable is his leadership role in a House Democratic caucus that depends on an enthusiastic grassroots progressive base for its majority.”
“The DCCC makes it their job to keep Democrats in fear. The DCCC makes millions of dollars by lying to Democrats,” People for Bernie, a pro-Bernie Sanders activist group, wrote on Twitter. “The DCCC intentionally backs candidates who don’t represent the district.”
Another progressive group, Justice Democrats, echoed those attacks on Twitter, linking to The Intercept’s report.
“Establishment Democrats are going after Progressives not Republicans,” the group wrote. “House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer can be heard in this audio, pressuring a progressive candidate who is for #MedicareForAll to drop out of the primary.”
Hoyer spokesperson Katie Grant defended her bosses comments, telling Politico Hoyer is “committed to taking back the House, and that involves working with local leaders to identify and support the strongest candidate for that district.”
House Minority Leader Pelosi also defended Hoyer in her weekly press conference on Thursday.
“In terms of candidates and campaigns, I don’t see anything inappropriate in what Mr. Hoyer was engaged in conversation about, the realities of life in a race as to who can win in a general election,” Pelosi said.
“If the realities of life is that some candidates can do better in the general than others,” she added, “then that’s a clear-eyed conversation that we should be having.”
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