In a rare move, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee is aiming its opposition research firepower at a Democrat.
Not usually known for actively campaigning against Democratic candidates in congressional primaries, the DCCC is drawing attention and criticism for taking a square shot at candidate Laura Moser, a freelance writer and progressive activist who is running for Congress in Texas’s Seventh Congressional District, which includes parts of Houston.
Moser, the founder of the activist text messaging platform Daily Action, is one of seven Democratic candidates competing in a March 6 primary. The top two winners will head to a runoff election, and the winner of that race will ultimately compete against incumbent Republican Rep. John Culberson in November.
The DCCC recently published an opposition research memo on its website against Moser. These memos, full of negative research on candidates, are usually used against Republican candidates in the general election.
“Democratic voters need to hear that Laura Moser is not going to change Washington,” the memo stated. “She is a Washington insider, who begrudgingly moved to Houston to run for Congress. In fact, she wrote in the Washingtonian magazine, ‘I’d rather have my teeth pulled out without anesthesia’ than live in Texas.”
It’s rare for the DCCC to get involved in primaries, but the national Democratic Party desperately wants to flip the Seventh Congressional District, which has been held by Republicans since the 1960s, but also voted for Hillary Clinton in 2016.
The DCCC views Moser as too risky to run against the Republican incumbent in the general election, but they also recognize she is someone who has enough of a following and money to possibly get into the runoff. Hence, the opposition memo getting out during the primary.
“When there’s a truly disqualified general election candidate that would eliminate our ability to flip a district blue, that’s a time when it becomes necessary to get involved in these primaries,” DCCC spokesperson Meredith Kelly told Vox. “This district is too important to let it go without trying.”
One of the core pieces of evidence against Moser appears to be a 2014 article in the Washingtonian about DC housing costs titled, “Yeah DC is Pricey — Get Over It Already!” that ran under the heading “Rant.”
In the article, Moser wrote, “On my pathetic writer’s salary, I could live large in Paris, Texas, where my grandparents’ plantation-style house recently sold for $129,000. Oh, but wait — my income would be a fraction of what it is here and I’d have very few opportunities to increase it. (Plus I’d sooner have my teeth pulled out without anesthesia, but that’s a story for another day.)“ (Vox obtained the original article. You can read it below for full context.)
Moser appears to have come around to living in Texas (she moved back to Houston last year), but that wasn’t the only thing the DCCC highlighted. Citing Federal Election Commission records, it also accused Moser of paying “her husband’s Washington, DC political consulting firm over $50,000 from campaign contributions; meaning 1 of every 6 dollars raised has gone to her husband’s DC company.”
Moser’s husband is Arun Chaudhary, a partner at the progressive consulting firm Revolution Messaging. A recent piece by the Intercept’s Lee Fang, Ryan Grim, and David Dayen noted that financial
Moser has called out the DCCC in the past. She penned an article in Vogue in August criticizing DCCC Chair Rep. Ben Ray Luján (D-NM) for his vow not to put a litmus test to Democratic congressional candidates, even when it came to social issues like abortion rights.
“Perhaps Texans, especially the Democrats among us, stay at home because they don’t have any clear sense of what we stand for,” Moser wrote in August. “I have one idea of how to get more Democratic women to polling stations: Stand up for them.”
This is an unusual move on the DCCC’s part — and some Democrats aren’t happy
The fact that the DCCC published an opposition research memo on a Democrat in the first place raised eyebrows in the Lone Star State.
Abby Livingston, the DC bureau chief for the Texas Tribune and a veteran Texas campaign reporter, described the DCCC memo as the organization “going nuclear.”
“In three cycles of covering these races, I ain’t seen anything like this,” Livingston tweeted.
When Livingston reached out to the DCCC for further comment, committee spokesperson Kelly went even further in a statement.
“Unfortunately, Laura Moser’s outright disgust for life in Texas disqualifies her as a general election candidate, and would rob voters of their opportunity to flip Texas’ 7th in November,” Kelly said, referring again to the Washingtonian article.
As she fielded DCCC attacks calling her a DC elite, Moser shot back in kind.
“We’re used to tough talk here in Texas, but it’s disappointing to hear it from Washington operatives trying to tell Texans what to do,” she said in a statement to the Texas Tribune. “These kind of tactics are why people hate politics. The days where party bosses picked the candidates in their smoke filled rooms are over. DC needs to let Houston vote.”
Some on the left are echoing Moser, criticizing the DCCC for going all in against one candidate, especially in such a crowded, energized Democratic field.
Democrats think they can win the Seventh Congressional District
This latest flap between Moser and the DCCC shines a spotlight on an already very high-profile and crowded Democratic primary in Texas.
There is an incredibly large and competitive field of Democratic candidates vying to replace Culberson, who has been in office since 2001. Besides Moser, other candidates in the primary include lawyer Lizzie Pannill Fletcher, cancer researcher Jason Westin, director of a Houston nonprofit Alex Triantaphyllis, Houston’s senior assistant attorney James Cargas, University of Houston development official Joshua Butler, and former congressional staffer Ivan Sanchez.
Triantaphyllis and Fletcher are two other candidates who have risen to the top of the pack. Both are slightly more moderate in some of their stances compared to Moser. The Democratic Super PAC Emily’s List is backing Fletcher.
To give you some context, Democrats haven’t been in power in the Seventh District since 1966, according to the Houston Chronicle’s Kevin Diaz. That was the year voters elected George H.W. Bush to the seat (he later became the 41st president), and the seat has remained red ever since.
But the newly crowded slate of primary candidates is indicative of a new surge of Democratic energy in a deeply red state. Even though President Donald Trump easily won Texas in 2016, Hillary Clinton carried the Seventh District.
With such an out-of-reach district looking suddenly gettable, the national party wants to be competitive there. But it’s unclear if a divide-and-conquer strategy will get them there.
Below is the full Washingtonian article from November 2014.
Laura Moser RANT November 2014 (PDF)
Laura Moser RANT November 2014 (Text)
Rachel Wolfe contributed to this story.
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