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House Dem jockeying to lead campaign arm begins with control still in limbo

Rep. Tony Cárdenas on Friday announced he’s seeking to lead House Democrats’ campaign arm for the 2024 cycle, pledging to grow the caucus’ ranks after its smaller-than-expected midterm losses.

The California Democrat is touting his experience leading the Congressional Hispanic Caucus’ political arm, BOLD PAC, which has funneled millions into competitive races in the last few cycles — and not just for Hispanic candidates. Cárdenas has drawn praise from other Democrats for helping to transform BOLD PAC into a fundraising powerhouse, thanks in part to his own donor network.

While control of the House remains uncalled, it continues to bend toward a narrow Republican majority. If elected, Cárdenas would face a better environment for 2024 than Democrats initially expected, but nonetheless a challenging one as they battle negative economic trends and an unpredictable presidential race likely to involve Donald Trump. A major part of the Californian’s pitch is improving Democrats’ outreach to Latino voters, amid rising fears within the party about the fastest-growing U.S. voting bloc’s shift toward the GOP.

“If you elect me as the next Chair of the [Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee], I promise to fight alongside you to win in 2024 so that we can continue delivering for working families in the United States and adding to our great progress,” he wrote in a letter to other Democratic lawmakers sent Friday morning, a copy of which was obtained by POLITICO.

He’s promising to create a member services operation at the DCCC, hire a more diverse staff and expand the party’s investment in new outreach strategies, among other reforms. It’s Cárdenas’ second bid for the role after losing a close race against the current DCCC chair, Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney (D-N.Y.), who just lost his own reelection bid.

Rep. Mark Takano (D-Calif.), a Cárdenas ally who also co-chairs the Equality PAC, the campaign arm of the LGBTQ caucus, praised him as a “visionary” leader of the BOLD PAC who could not only bring credibility with Hispanic and Latino voters, but also build “bridges to other segments of the caucus, other important constituencies of the caucus.

“The DCCC is a thankless job — you’re not going to make everybody happy. But I think Tony will ultimately have the respect of members of the caucus because they’re going to have trust that decisions are being made for strategic reasons that are in the interest of the caucus — of getting to 218,” Takano said.

Democrats are likely to pick the DCCC chair after choosing their top leaders at the end of the month, though the process could change. Some Democrats, led by Reps. Mark Pocan (D-Wis.) Suzan DelBene (D-Wash.) and Brad Schneider (D-Ill.), are formally pushing to have leadership appoint the DCCC chair, rather than putting it to a caucuswide election, according to several people familiar with the deliberations.

The Democrats’ committee on caucus procedure, which is chaired by Rep. Grace Meng (D-N.Y), will decide whether to recommend any procedural changes to the rest of the caucus, which could then take up the matter later this month.

Rep. Ami Bera (D-Calif.), who currently holds a leadership position in the pro-business New Democrat Coalition, is also expected to jump in the race, though he has not yet announced his plans.

Sarah Ferris contributed to this report.

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