Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chairman Steve Israel has just over four months left to bring the House back under Democratic control. That will require the committee to turn out loyal African-American and Hispanic voters and work to diversify the caucus. But along the way, he's facing backlash from the chairwoman of one of the House conference's most influential groups: the Congressional Black Caucus.
Israel, Rep. Marcia Fudge says, does not represent the Democratic conference in the House well. Fudge wouldn't comment on what specifically Israel had done, although several strategists and members familiar with the dispute pointed to an incident in 2011. Israel had scheduled a meeting with the CBC to address some of its members' concerns with the committee, but in what his staffers and even Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi described as a misstatement, told members: "Can we win the House without the CBC? Yes. Do we want to win the House without the CBC? No."
Although Israel apologized and patched things up with then-CBC Chairman Emanuel Cleaver, the first part of that sentence has followed him ever since. "I have chosen to believe that he made a dumb statement, and I think after it fell out of his lips, he probably thought: 'Oh, my goodness,' " Cleaver says. "I don't think that that was necessarily a reflection of who he is. However, it's almost like these emails: Once you send an email, it's out there in cyberspace eternally. And so you know, every now and then when somebody has a bad experience with the DCCC, at one of our meetings somebody will say, 'Well, yeah, but you remember he's already told us that he doesn't need us,' " Cleaver said.