U.S. Rep. Joe Neguse’s recent election to a position within House leadership puts the rising Democratic star on an impressive trajectory at the age of 36.
Neguse, of Lafayette, was unanimously elected co-chair of the House Democratic Policy and Communications Committee, the No. 8 position in House leadership. He’s the youngest member of leadership and will be the first sophomore congressman to serve as DPCC co-chair.
“Joe Neguse is brilliant, hard-working, personable and strategic. That’s a powerful combination and a recipe for tremendous success in the United States House of Representatives,” said Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, a New York Democrat.
In a Democratic caucus led by an 80-year-old speaker, an 81-year-old majority leader and an 80-year-old whip, turnover at the top is expected soon and Neguse has placed himself in the line of succession, should he choose to remain in the U.S. House for long.
Barring an unusual redistricting next year, Neguse’s 2nd Congressional District will remain solidly Democratic — it hasn’t elected a Republican since Watergate, and Neguse won elections in 2018 and this month by 26 percentage points. It can also be a stepping stone: of his four most recent predecessors, three went on to be either senator or governor, a prominence no other Colorado district can boast of.
It’s a popular parlor game among Democratic politicos in Colorado to speculate about Neguse’s next moves, which all expect to continue an ascendant career. Even Rep. Ken Buck, chair of the Colorado GOP, has praised Neguse, a fellow Judiciary Committee member he has gotten to know on flights to and from Washington, as a personable and talented politician.
The DPCC is the messaging arm for House Democrats, a caucus that will have the narrowest majority in decades — probably 222 seats, to 213 Republican seats — next year after unexpected losses Nov. 3. It’s a caucus that has faced infighting this month between liberals and moderates over messaging; moderates say liberal messages like “defund the police” cost swing state Democrats their reelection.
“I think our messaging at the national level — and in the House Democratic caucus — ought to stay focused on the core values that are shared by everyone in the caucus,” Neguse said when asked about the internal politics in an interview Tuesday.
“To me, that’s sort of the central thrust of the DPCC’s work: trying to convene every member of the caucus to ensure they all have a seat at the table — the most liberal members of our caucus and the most conservative members — to make their case” and then crafting a message that encompasses all views, the congressman added.
It’s a task easier said than done. Neguse, who is prone to a sprightly optimism, has spent months talking with colleagues from across the political spectrum about the Democratic caucus’s policy and messaging priorities. Several of those colleagues — moderates and progressives alike — say Neguse, a Boulder County liberal himself, is well positioned to bridge the caucus’s philosophical canyons in years to come.
“I can see why he’s achieved so much at such a young age,” said Rep. Dean Phillips, a moderate from Minnesota and friend of Neguse. “He combines a very progressive heart with an equally pragmatic head, which is a great combination in the Democratic caucus. He has made decency cool again.”
Rep. Deb Haaland, a New Mexico progressive, said he is skilled and strategic. Jeffries, who served with Neguse on the Judiciary Committee during last December’s impeachment hearings, said Neguse compelled Democrats to be disciplined and on-message as they spoke about the president’s actions.
“Joe understood intrinsically that while there was a temptation to message to our respective progressive districts, one of the things that would bring the country together was to identify a unifying message around presidential accountability,” Jeffries recalled in an interview Wednesday.
“Joe is certainly a rising star in the House Democratic caucus,” added Jeffries, who may be the next Democratic speaker of the House, “and the best is yet to come.”
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