WASHINGTON – Rep. Dean Phillips, who has been calling for a new generation of Democratic leaders, will be one of his party’s young leaders 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 a two-day leadership election. In those elections, Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D., New York) was chosen to lead the House Democrats in the upcoming Congress.
Like 52-year-old Jeffries, most of the new Democratic leaders are much younger than those who will replace them when they turn 118.th Parliament when the gavel was dropped in January. Retiring leaders include 82-year-old House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-California) and 83-year-old Majority Leader Stenny Hoyer (D-Md.).
Phillips, 53, was the first lawmaker to say he hoped President Joe Biden would not run for re-election in 2024, in addition to calling for a new generation of Democratic leaders in Congress. It’s at the top of the ticket.
Operating out of unpretentious offices in the basement of the U.S. Capitol, the DPCC is tasked with uniting House Democrats and crafting a message that contrasts with Republican issues. At this Congress, the DPCC adopted “People over Politics” as its mantra.
But Phillips said he wants to turn things around. He said the DPCC was too focused on crafting its message and not enough on the Democratic Party’s “brand” and pitching the Democratic Party and its priorities to voters.
“My professional experience has always been in studying consumer behavior,” says Phillips.
Elected to the House of Representatives in 2018, Phillips is the former CEO of a family-owned liquor business, former co-owner of Talenty Gelato, and co-owner of Penny’s Coffee.
Phillips said Democrats are developing a “very good legislative product” but that selling the legislative agenda to the public is “flawed.”
Seven Democrats ran for three positions for DPCC Vice-Chairman, and Phillips was one of the top three vote-getters, receiving 81 votes. His other two were Texas Democrat Rep. Veronica Escobar, who received 138 votes, and Illinois Rep. Lauren Underwood, who received 135 votes.
Colorado Democrat Rep. Joe Negse ran for DPCC chairman as an independent.
Phillips said he campaigned for his new post by visiting every Democratic congressman’s office, handing out small succulents to everyone, and frequently meeting with staff to pitch on behalf of lawmakers. He said it was important to hear the concerns and thoughts of these staff members, and surveyed as many Democrats’ staff members as possible.
“It was very insightful,” Phillips said.
Phillips and other new Democratic leaders will have new jobs during the party’s transition period as it fights to defend two years of legislative victories won under Democratic presidents who controlled both houses of Congress.
Rep. Pete Aguilar (D-California), vice chair of the House Democratic Caucus, congratulated Phillips and other lawmakers on Thursday on their election as DPCC vice chair.
“Republicans are beefing up their extremist agenda, using their majority to impose a nationwide abortion ban, cut Medicare benefits, and slam the middle-class-backed corporations that send jobs abroad. We are planning to give unpopular tax incentives to ,” Aguilar said. “It’s more important than ever for House Democrats to communicate our priorities and values to the American public, including low-cost, better-paying jobs and safer communities.”