Sun. Jun 23rd, 2024

Democratic Rep. Joe Neguse is on the rise. How high can he climb?

By 37ci3 May28,2024


WASHINGTON — Democratic Rep. Joe Neguse is in a hurry, crammed into a media interview after the week’s final vote, hurrying down the halls of the Rayburn House Office Building to meet with senior Rep. Bobby Scott, then off to board him. State dinner at the White House for the President of Kenya.

It’s still a little surreal for the son of Eritrean immigrants, who now represents Colorado’s 2nd Congressional District.

“I’m reminded every day that I should be able to serve in this position as someone who came here more than 40 years ago with very few immigrant parents,” Neguse said in an interview at the Capitol. Hill office. “It’s incredibly meaningful to me and I think it’s a reflection of everything that makes our country so exceptional.”

The next morning, Neguse met with candidates for the Democratic Congress Sarah Elfreth and Johnny Olszewski in Maryland, then his mentor for political events, longtime Rep. Jim Clyburn flew to Charleston to join DS.C.

For a charismatic Coloradan who just turned 40, Neguse’s busy, fast-paced schedule is emblematic of his broader political career. Already a member of the Democratic leadership, he is wasting no time and is eager to climb the leadership ladder. And his colleagues noticed.

“He’s a mess; he’s had a meteoric rise,” said Eric Swalwell, D-Calif., who worked with Neguse on the Democratic impeachment team that tried former President Donald Trump after the Jan. 6 attack.

But with a number of other talented, equally ambitious young leaders ahead of him, it’s unclear how exactly Neguse will navigate the bottleneck in the coming years.

Steny Hoyer, Katherine Clark, Joe Neguse, Eric Swalwell and Nancy Pelosi.
Representatives Steny Hoyer, Katherine Clark, Joe Neguse and Eric Swalwell look on as then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., prepares to sign articles of impeachment against Donald Trump on Jan. 13, 2021.Brendan Smialowski / AFP – Getty Images

In 2022, he ran unopposed to lead the Democrats’ policy and messaging operation, then ran unopposed again in March to replace Clyburn, who unexpectedly resigned as assistant leader. Job No. 4 or No. 5 in the House Democratic leadership, depending on who you ask.

Given his rapid rise through his first three terms in Congress, Neguse is unlikely to wait patiently for his turn. But for now, it’s too early to know whether he’ll try to leapfrog potential rivals in the leadership pipeline or run for governor or senator. If Democrats take back control of the House in November, their colleagues expect Negus to nominate the assistant speaker job previously held by Ben Ray Lujan (now in the Senate) and Katherine Clark (now minority whip and No. 2 leader). .

Always careful with how he chooses his words, Neguse demurred when asked specifically about what his next political moves might be and whether they would include a bid for the Senate or the governor’s mansion, where Democrat Jared Polis faces term limits in 2026. Sen. John Hickenlooper, D-Colo., 72, said he would seek re-election that year; Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colo., 59, is up in 2028.

“Honestly, I haven’t spent much time thinking about long-term plans,” Neguse said. “As you know, I have a 5-year-old daughter and a 1-year-old son, and I’m honored to represent the people of Colorado and serve our caucus as an assistant to the Democratic leader.”

“So my focus is on doing the best I can and figuring out summer vacation plans for my daughter. She’s been very adamant that we put it on the books,” she said. “The rest can be figured out later.”

A staircase

Unlike other senior leadership jobs, the position of assistant leader is highly ambiguous. It was created to add another seat to the leadership table of then-Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., as other young Democrats scrambled for a way forward but found a similar bottleneck at the top.

Later known as “the leader’s assistant,” then-Rep. Xavier Becerra, D-Calif., held that title before climbing the ladder and serving as California attorney general and now secretary of Health and Human Services. Former Rep. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., also held the position before a successful bid in the Senate. After Democrats were ousted in the 2010 Tea Party wave, Pelosi paired Clyburn with her No. 2 leader, Rep. Steny Hoyer helped appoint an assistant leader to avert a messy infighting between D-Md.

Joe Negus.
Neguse speaks to supporters on October 26, 2022 in Idaho Springs, Colorado.Michael Ciaglo/Getty Images

Neguse is taking the job in a new and more visible direction — and he’s drawing the attention of some potential contenders for future leadership roles. Just 60 days into her new role, she has held monthly press conferences to promote the work of her colleagues, including one in April to prevent cuts to Social Security and Medicare and another in May to protect reproductive rights and other freedoms. These were followed by “special order hours”, Nagus was in chargewhere members can amplify these issues on the floor of the House.

The Colorado Democrat also hosts events where members can meet key members of the Biden administration — D-Calif. Rep. It’s something that Ted Lieu did as vice chairman of the Democratic Caucus. Neguse recently hosted a dinner for colleagues attended by Lina Khan, chair of the Federal Trade Commission, and will host a member breakfast with NASA Administrator Bill Nelson in the coming weeks.

And twice a week, Neguse emails membershighlights the work and performances of individual members, provides useful advice and reminds them of upcoming events.

“I think people understood what he was working on,” said a top House Democratic leadership aide. “Hair curling is probably the nicest way to say it, because it’s not really anger; I don’t feel like people are angry. It’s more like, “Oh, that’s interesting. Joe is doing it now.’”

As assistant director, Neguse is there to help Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries, another mentor and fellow Congressional Black Caucus, D.N.Y., from campaign travel to member services. Next month, his office will lead the annual meeting of Democratic district directors in Washington, he said.

Neguse is just as active on the campaign trail as Democrats try to win the small handful of seats needed to take over the House.

This cycle, he raised $1.7 million for incumbents and candidates. “Red to Blue” program and transferred $6 million to the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, the party’s campaign arm. Beginning in June, Neguse will travel to Arizona, New Mexico and Ohio to raise and raise cash for Democratic candidates, a source close to Neguse said.

Joe Neguse holds a map.
Neguse at a May 8 press conference on reproductive rights.Bill Clark / CQ-Roll Call, Inc. via Getty Images

“I am optimistic about November. “At the end of the day, I think the extreme agenda that House Republicans have pursued over the last 15 months is deeply out of step with the American public,” Neguse said in an interview.

“I think if you ask most Americans, they would be deeply concerned that House Republicans are spending an inordinate amount of time. Refrigerator Freedom Act and Laundry Freedom Act, and various extreme policy conversations aimed at undermining what I believe are basic freedoms, be it reproductive freedom, freedom to vote, and more. And then not addressing the core economic issues that the American people care about.

“Many Roads Ahead”

It didn’t take long for Neguse to stand out, even among a stellar collection of peers who were elected in the 2018 midterm elections and helped secure Democratic control of the House.

Not long after arriving in Washington, a young lawyer who served as executive director of Colorado’s consumer protection agency was selected as a freshman representative for leadership. He remained in that constituency, serving as one of three co-chairs of the Democratic Policy and Communications Committee (DPCC) in the next Congress, and then leading that group after the 2022 midterm elections.

He was also well liked by the old guard of the Democratic leadership. Then-Speaker Pelosi chose Neguse — widely regarded as one of the caucus’ most gifted speakers — One of nine lawmakers presiding over Trump’s second impeachment trial, making him the youngest of the group. Rep. Madeleine Dean of Pennsylvania, elected only in the class of 2018, had a short tenure in the House.

Jeffries, the next Democratic leader, selected Neguse as one of four Democrats to sit on the powerful House Rules Committee, which directs legislation to the House floor.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi Visits NCAR to Promote Inflation Reduction Act
Neguse and Pelosi in Boulder, Colo., in 2022.The Denver Post via Helen H. Richardson/Getty Images

As for his future, some colleagues say the question can wait.

“He has a lot of ways forward and he works hard to get along with his colleagues, to know what they’re thinking and to be an advocate for them. And he is young. So he’s got a lot of options,” said Michigan Rep. Debbie Dingell, who served with Neguse on the DPCC and succeeded in leading him on the committee.

She noted that her late husband, John Dingell, who served in the House of Representatives for nearly 60 years, wrote countless laws that touched people’s lives.

“It’s not a bad thing to be a leader in the House and make a difference for the people who sent you to Washington,” he said.

Rep. Veronica Escobar, D-Texas, who worked with Neguse on the DPCC, called her a “talented leader” and a “natural communicator” and said she hoped she would “continue to move up the leadership ladder.”

And moderate Rep. Scott Peters, D-Calif., described Neguse as someone who “understands a lot of politics” but also has “a good political mind.”

“He understands the political context in which everything unfolds. You take those qualities and combine that with how well he knows members individually, I think he’s well suited to contribute leadership,” Peters said. “He has a future.”



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