Jamie Raskin has the research ability and national profile to land the job he wants next year. Only he faces a unique congressional challenge: At nearly 60 years old, he may be too junior.
The Maryland Democrat, a constitutional law expert who has reached a national audience as a Donald Trump impeachment manager and a January 6 select committee member, hopes to take his party’s top spot on the influential House Oversight Committee next year. He is up against 72-year-old Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-Va.) and 67-year-old Rep. Stephen Lynch (D-Mass.), both of whom outperform him in the panel.
Democrats personally warn that it is too early to determine a frontrunner as the race is expected to last until the end of the year. But behind the scenes there is early jockeying; Members were subtly vetted on the sidelines of the first closed-door caucus meeting since July, a participant told POLITICO.
Running to lead his party on Oversight is a gamble for Raskin, which detracts from the caucus’ tendency to hand out plum positions based on seniority. But amid the potential for wider post-election turmoil in Democratic leadership — after years of private quibbling from lawmakers over the inability to move up while octogenarians held onto top positions — Raskin could boost his bid as a slew of younger members move up. jumped the ranks.
“We have a great predicament of three great people running for this, but Jamie is special,” said Rep. Jared Huffman (D-Calif.), who whips for Raskin, in a short interview. He called the Marylander “the whole package.”
Each of the three Democrats who oppose first place on the committee — which opened after the current chairman, 76-year-old Carolyn Maloney (DN.Y.) lost her primary — have also started assembling their own whip teams, looking to strengthen early support among their peers. Rep. Jerrold Nadler (DN.Y.), who defeated Maloney in a hard-fought primary, is one of those lashes for Raskin.
Each camp has its own work for them. Maloney has no plans to back, she told POLITICO, and several Oversight Committee members have yet to back a contender. The November election could also shake up the core group of Democrats, which will make recommendations about who gets the spot.
Raskin said in an interview that he respects the “principle of seniority”, but that assuming that the oldest member should automatically be chairman is a “rebuttable presumption”. he added.
“I think this will be a judgment of the caucus on the character of the times we find ourselves in and whose particular experience and preparation is most marked by time,” Raskin added.
Connolly and Lynch both entered the race ahead of Raskin. Although they are higher in the commission and emphasized this when announcing their bids, they are not campaigning for that as their main asset.
Raskin, Lynch and Connolly are both chairmen of the subcommittees and oversee civil rights and civil liberties; National security; and Government Operations, respectively — and their current functions highlight some of the various points of interest they would bring to the full committee.
For example, Lynch said he wants to prioritize voting reform next year and emphasized his experience with hands-on investigations. He led congressional trips to Eastern Europe and the Ukrainian border to bolster congressional support for Kiev, combining those visits with hearings and requests for information on Russia.
“I think coming on the scene and helping members understand… that the function of the committee, which is the heart and soul of its operation, is something I probably have an advantage in,” said Lynch, who ran the race. described as a “jump ball”. .”
When asked if he’s the most senior Democrat on the panel to go for first place, Lynch said he thought seniority was “a factor,” but “I don’t think it’s the single most important factor. It’s been in the past.” been, but I don’t know if it is now.”
Connolly said he thought Raskin did a “great job” with his work on the Jan. 6 select committee, but claimed Oversight had a “slightly different mission.”
“We are dealing with the nuts and bolts of government. And it’s very granular surveillance that may seem obscure, but often those issues are hinges on much bigger things,” Connolly, whose state has a significant number of government employees, said in a brief interview.
Connolly previously lost to Maloney in the 2019 race for first place in the Oversight Committee. Lynch also ran that year, but dropped out before the caucus voted. Among those who support Connolly are Secretary of State Gregory Meeks (DN.Y.) and Representatives Susan Wild (D-Pa.) and Don Beyer (D-Va.), while Lynch pointed to Financial Services Chair Maxine Waters ( D-Calif.) and Representatives Danny Davis (D-Ill.) and Lori Trahan (D-Mass.) as some of those who support him.
Raskin joined the House in 2017, Connolly in 2009, and Lynch in 2001. But Raskin has spent more time in the national spotlight than his opponents, as Speaker Nancy Pelosi has given him some of the most politically sensitive assignments in recent years. .
Pelosi named Raskin the lead impeachment manager for Trump’s second trial, which came just weeks after a mob of the former president’s supporters stormed the Capitol and disrupted the formal count of President Joe Biden’s Electoral College victory. Rep. Mikie Sherrill (DN.J.), another Raskin whip, said its effectiveness in that position “impressed” her.
Months later, Pelosi tapped Raskin for the select committee investigating the January 6th attack, a high-profile perch who has found him and eight other panelists unleashing a steady stream of bombing in the wake of Trump-backed attempts to undo the 2020 election. to make.
“Being the chair of Oversight and Government Reform embodies the breadth of his work. He’s not just an impeachment manager. He is not only a member of the 1/6 committee. He is someone who has taught all of us in this country about our democracy, our constitution,” said MP Madeleine Dean (D-Pa.), who spoke to members on behalf of Raskin.
If the Democrats lose the House, as expected, whoever succeeds Maloney would be the highest-ranking member — and be at the forefront of countering GOP investigations on everything from Hunter Biden’s business dealings to dealing with the pandemic by the White House. Raskin noted in his own letter to his colleagues last month that the party was “still in the struggle of a lifetime to defend American constitutional democracy.”
Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.) — while stressing that she was speaking for herself and not for the Congressional Progressive Caucus, which she chairs — said she was “very supportive” of Raskin.
“I think he would be an incredible chairman in the majority, where we have a lot of oversight to do, or… if we were in the minority, he would be an amazing defender of democracy,” said Jayapal, adding that Raskin has “so much respect over the caucus.”
Rep. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.), who also supports Raskin, said his work on impeachment and the Jan. 6 panel would give him a “moral authority” that could take him to the top of the caucus on Oversight.
“I think in Jamie’s case people see that he would be so perfect for the role that he will have the opportunity to overcome the institutional bias for seniority,” Khanna said.
Sarah Ferris contributed to this report.