After a bruising midterm election that left them with the smallest minority in nearly a century in the House of Representatives, Democrats are looking at two of its star members as the party’s salvation — Texas Rep. Joaquin Castro and Massachusetts Rep. Joe Kennedy.
Senior Democratic staffers tell Politico that both House freshmen are being viewed as strong candidates for the chairmanship of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC), which is charged with getting a strategy in place for Democrat victories in future elections.
Castro, 40, and Kennedy, 34, both are first-time congressmen, elected in 2012. They both attended Stanford University and Harvard Law School.
Castro was the 2013 co-president for the House freshman Democrats and was named Assistant Whip for House Democrats, and as such, his website said, Castro was "charged with rallying members around important legislation."
Kennedy, a fluent Spanish-speaker, served at the Peace Corps in the Dominican Republic where, his website said, "he designed and implemented an economic development project that helped create jobs and increase the standard of living in an isolated community near Puerto Plata."
He sits on the House Committee on Foreign Affairs and the House Committee on Science and Technology.
The person in charge of naming the DCCC chairman is Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of California.
The selection would be “designed to give House Democrats, who lack an obvious path back to power, a badly needed infusion of energy and excitement, not to mention fundraising prowess,” Politico said.
Others also being viewed as potential chairs are Connecticut Rep. Jim Himes and Maryland Rep. Donna Edwards.
If Castro and Kennedy share parallels in their education, their upbringing was very different.
Castro and his twin brother, Julian Castro, who recently became Housing and Urban Development secretary, were raised by a single mother, Rosie, in Texas. They credit their mother, who was a civil rights activist, with holding them to high academic standards and stressing the importance of being involved in civil affairs – as children they often went with her to local council meetings and protest rallies.
A big influence, they said, also was their grandmother, Victoria Castro, who emigrated from Mexico.
Kennedy is the grandson of the late Sen. Robert F. Kennedy and was raised in affluence in Massachusetts.
The Democrats lost roughly 12 House seats in the midterm election, surprising even those who had been resigned to a large share of Republican victories.
Politico said that some close to Pelosi theorize that she might want to lean toward someone who could do what then-Illinois Rep. Rahm Emanuel, who had been a Clinton White House advisor and now is Chicago mayor, did as DCCC chairman after the 2004 elections.
Politico said that Pelosi’s press office declined to comment.
The story added that one drawback for both Castro and Kennedy is that there are senior lawmakers who have wanted the DCCC chairmanship for some time, and may expect that seniority would make them stronger contenders over the freshman lawmakers.