WASHINGTON – Rep. Dean Phillips, who has called for a new generation of Democratic leaders, will now be among those younger leaders of his party in the new Congress.
Phillips, D-3rd, was elected vice chair of the Democratic Policy and Communications Committee (DPCC) on Thursday as House Democrats wrapped up two days of leadership elections. In those elections, Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, D-New York, was chosen to lead House Democrats in the next Congress, the first Black lawmaker to lead either party in the House and Senate.
Like Jeffries, who is 52, most of the new Democratic leaders are much younger than the people they will replace when the 118th Congress when gaveled in in January. Those retiring leaders include Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., who is 82, and Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., who is 83.
Besides pressing for a new generation of Democratic leaders in Congress, Phillips, 53, was the first lawmaker to say he’d prefer President Joe Biden not run for re-election in 2024. Phillips said he wanted a younger, more “dynamic” Democrat be at the top of the ticket.
The DPCC, which operates out of an unassuming office in the basement of the U.S. Capitol, is tasked with developing the message that would unify House Democrats and draw sharp contrast with the talking points of the GOP. In this Congress, the DPCC adopted “People over Politics” as its mantra.
But Phillips said he wants to shake things up. He said the DPCC has been too focused on developing a message and has not paid enough attention to the Democratic “brand,” and marketing the Democratic Party and its priorities to voters.
“My professional experience has always been studying consumer behavior,” Phillips said.
Elected to Congress in 2018, Phillips is the former CEO of his family’s liquor business, the former co-owner of Talenti gelato and a co-owner of Penny’s Coffee.
Phillips said Democrats develop “very good legislative products” but are “defective” in selling their legislative agenda to the public. He thinks he can fix that.
Seven Democrats ran for three DPCC vice chair positions and Phillips, who received 81 votes, was among the top three vote getters. The other two were Rep. Veronica Escobar, D-Texas, who received 138 votes, and Rep. Lauren Underwood, D-Illinois, who received 135.
Rep. Joe Neguse, D-Colorado, ran unopposed for of DPCC chairman.
Phillips said he campaigned for his new post by visiting the office of every Democratic House member, delivering a tiny succulent plant to everyone and often meeting with staffers instead of lawmakers to make his pitch. He said hearing the concerns and ideas of those staffers is key, and he surveyed as many Democratic congressional staffers as he could.
“It was very insightful,” Phillips said.
Phillips and the other new Democratic leaders will take their new jobs during a period of transition for the party, which will be fighting to protect two years of legislative victories won under a Democratic president who had control of both chambers in Congress.
Rep. Pete Aguilar, D-California, who serves as vice chair of the House Democratic Caucus, on Thursday congratulated Phillips and the other lawmakers elected DPCC vice chairs.
“Republicans are ramping up an extremist agenda with plans to use their threadbare majority to impose a national abortion ban, slash Medicare benefits and hand out deeply unpopular tax breaks for companies that ship jobs overseas on the backs of the middle class,” Aguilar said. “It’s more important than ever that House Democrats communicate our priorities and our values to the American people – lower costs, better paying jobs and safer communities.”