Representative Soto drew Jacobson’s ire almost immediately after taking office in 2017, after an article reporting that he had taken the assistant whip post was distributed among No Labels staff.
“So Soto is now asst whip …” Jacobson wrote in an internal email on January 17. Margaret White, a senior adviser, responded: “And he is boycotting the inauguration …”
“Not a promising early development,” Clancy chimed in.
Less than an hour later, Jacobson wrote back, posing a question: “Do we ever take on someone we helped …?”
The conversation appears to have faded after that, according to people familiar with the discussions.
Jacobson on Monday initially responded to questions from The Atlantic by saying the group had never considered challenging Soto. “We supported Darren Soto. Heavily. Both his elections. 2016 and 2018. Over 1.5 million total,” she wrote in an email.
When presented with what she had previously written to her staff about him, she responded, “As a group we support people who are willing to work across the aisle to solve problems and don’t support people who put partisanship above progress. As a consequence—we consider lots of options and ideas and we always hold true to our central values of promoting bi-partisan solutions to our nation’s problems.”
Later on Monday, Clancy claimed that both the Pelosi and Soto discussions were “idle speculation.” Later, when asked what level of exploration he would consider more real, Clancy wrote, “I don’t know what classifies as idle speculation versus what classifies as more seriously flirting with an idea. I do know that whatever ideas were being tossed around in January 2017 were shelved pretty quickly once it was clear the Problem Solvers were emerging as a serious group and the best use of resources would be to protect and elect members of that Caucus for the duration of the cycle.” He pointed to independent expenditure efforts that helped eight Democrats and eight Republicans.
But No Labels looked into taking out another Democrat almost a year later. In December 2017, Jacobson sent an email to advisers and people in New Hampshire with the subject line “advice asap” in search of how to respond to Annie Kuster, a Democratic congresswoman, with whom she had just had a call asking her to rejoin the Problem Solvers Caucus.
“It did NOT go well. She ended up hanging up on me … She told me our group was offensive … She told me we had accomplished nothing and that she was the true bipartisan,” Jacobson wrote, calling herself “shaken up by her aggressive and hostile actions and speech.”
She then asked for help on the ground to mount a campaign against Kuster. In follow-up emails to people in New Hampshire, Jacobson asked about potential primary challengers, including Dick Swett, a former representative and ambassador, and Steve Marchand, who was running in the gubernatorial primary by talking up his 2016 support for Bernie Sanders.