More Latinos than ever before are serving in Congress this year in large part because several were able to take open seats, or win seats from Republicans. Several new Latino Democratic congressmen were also the beneficiaries of generous TV ad spending from the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, the organization is funded by members of Congress to help those same members stay in Congress.
But because the DCCC is funded by members of Congress, the organization always supports incumbents, which may contribute to the reason Congress is full with white men.
We spoke to DCCC Spokesman Jesse Ferguson about this issue, who pointed out that this year the organization had the most diverse recruitment of Democratic House candidates in history, and this led to the first Democratic Caucus that is not majority white men. The Caucus is 54% non-white men, while the Republican House Caucus is close to 90% white men, Ferguson told Politic365.
The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee did not respond to requests for comment for this story.
“That happened because there was a successful effort to recruit and support candidates like Raul Ruiz [California] and Joe García [Florida] and Pete Gallego [Texas],” Ferguson said. “There was a major commitment of time and resources in those races, it’s one of the reasons that the Caucus has seen the changes that it has.”
Ferguson provided Politic365 with the following data on independent expenditure (TV ad) spending in the last cycle as evidence of how the DCCC has helped Latino candidates to win seats:
- $2,637,138.72 – Jose Hernandez
- $2,252,671.21 – John Oceguera
- $1,691,529.89 – Pete Gallego
- $1,110,871.22 – Raul Ruiz
The DCCC has also previously brought in Latinos to its leadership, such as New Mexico Congressman Ben Ray Lujan. More recently, Ferguson told us that newly minted Texas Congressman Joaquín Castro is on the recruitment committee for the 2014 cycle, and Maryland Congresswoman Donna F. Edwards was going to head up recruitment for the DCCC.
That the DCCC would be self-serving is obvious, according to Professor Lisa García Bedolla, Chair for the Center for Latino Policy Research at the University of California Berkeley. Although a member-funded organization is structurally predisposed to protect incumbents, a commitment to diversity is apparent in the manner in which the DCCC choose to recruit candidates to open seats.
“There you see that more often parties support white male candidates because they’re more likely to be seen as ‘electable,’” she said. “This is where parties have more discretion, and where I think racial [and] gender bias is more evident.”
She cited the example of term limits in California for the state legislature, which ultimately allowed Latinos to serve in greater numbers, but has the downside of forcing them out once they finally gain political traction.
Ferguson notes that, in the case of Pete Gallego, the DCCC not only spent one of the most significant amounts of money on TV ads, but also sent staffers and other resources. Making Congress more diverse takes resources, he said, and so by using funds from existing members of Congress to recruit, support and elect diverse candidates, Ferguson said the DCCC is illustrating the importance of diversity.
“To make the DCCC more diverse and reflect the new American electorate, that takes a commitment that has been demonstrated in this last election cycle, and will continue into 2014,” he said.