LEESBURG, Va. — As the battle for the House heats up — with a key New York special election just four days away — we sat down with DCCC Chair Suzan DelBene. Here are the top takeaways from our conversation on the sidelines of the House Democratic retreat.
New York’s 3rd District: DelBene slammed GOP candidate Mazi Pilip over her evasive relationship with the media. In an implicit comparison to the district’s former House member, expelled Rep. George Santos (R-N.Y.), DelBene said it’s vital that constituents “have a representative they can trust.”
Public polls have shown former Rep. Tom Suozzi (D-N.Y.) with a narrow lead ahead of the Feb. 13 special election.
“Tom Suozzi has been everywhere,” DelBene said, contrasting the Democratic hopeful with Pilip’s behind-closed-doors campaign.
Abortion rights driving the agenda: Abortion rights have been a winning issue for Democrats ever since Roe v. Wade was overturned in June 2022. DelBene intends to keep the issue front and center in 2024. But how can Democrats convince voters in battleground districts in reliably blue states — such as California and New York — that their rights are at stake?
“Republicans want a national abortion ban,” DelBene told us. “So absolutely people in states that have been supportive of abortion rights know that their rights are under attack, too.”
But some Republicans in tough seats, like Pilip, have publicly come out in opposition to federal bans on reproductive rights. How do Democrats respond to these candidates?
“When Mazi Pilip says that, what does that mean? That she’s going to stand up to [Speaker] Mike Johnson?” DelBene said incredulously. “I think we know where every single Republican has gone. They’ve all supported movement towards the national abortion ban. So there are no moderates on the Republican side left.”
Under-the-radar pickup opportunities: DelBene said Republican Reps. Zach Nunn (Iowa), Mariannette Miller-Meeks (Iowa), Ken Calvert (Calif.) and Ryan Zinke (Mont.) should all watch their backs in November.
The DCCC chair singled out their respective Democratic challengers — Lanon Baccam, Christina Bohannan, Will Rollins and Monica Tranel — as top-tier recruits.
Biden’s mental fitness: DelBene quickly batted away our question on whether she was concerned about Biden’s acuity after his gaffe-filled week.
“No,” DelBene responded. “I think that the president has proven to be a strong leader for the American people and we’ve accomplished a ton.”
— Max Cohen