Jamie Raskin’s got the investigative chops and national profile to get the job he wants next year. Except he’s facing a uniquely congressional challenge: At nearly 60 years old, he might be too junior.
The Maryland Democrat, a constitutional law expert who’s reached a national audience as a Donald Trump impeachment manager and a Jan. 6 select committee member, hopes to snag his party’s top spot on the influential House Oversight Committee next year. He’s running against 72-year-old Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-Va.) and 67-year-old Rep. Stephen Lynch (D-Mass.), both of whom outrank him on the panel.
Democrats privately warn that it’s too early to determine a frontrunner, with the race expected to extend until the end of the year. But there’s early jockeying behind the scenes; members got their preferences subtly vetted on the sidelines of House Democrats’ first closed-door caucus meeting since July, one attendee told AWN.
Running to lead his party on Oversight is a gamble for Raskin, cutting against the caucus’ penchant for doling out plum positions according to seniority. But amid the potential for a broader post-election shakeup in Democratic leadership — following years of lawmakers’ private kvetching about the inability to move up as octogenarians held onto the top positions — Raskin could find his bid boosted as an array of younger members vault up the ranks.
“We have a wonderful predicament of three great folks running for this, but Jamie’s special,” Rep. Jared Huffman (D-Calif.), who is whipping for Raskin, said in a brief interview. He called the Marylander “the entire package.”
Each of the three Democrats elbowing for the top spot on the committee — which came open after the current chair, 76-year-old Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.) lost her primary — have also begun putting together their own whip teams, looking to shore up early support among their colleagues. Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.), who beat Maloney in a hard-fought primary, is among those whipping for Raskin.
Each camp has their work cut out for them. Maloney isn’t planning to endorse, she told AWN, and several members of the Oversight Committee haven’t yet backed a contender. The November election could also shake up the core group of Democrats who will make recommendations on who gets the spot.
Raskin said in an interview that he respects the “principle of seniority” but that assuming the most senior member should automatically be chair is a “rebuttable presumption.” That should be true “unless there is a compelling reason to move in another direction,” he added.
“I think that this will be a judgment of the caucus about the character of the times that we’re in and whose particular experience and preparation is most indicated by the times,” Raskin added.
Connolly and Lynch both entered the race before Raskin. While they are more senior on the committee and highlighted it when they announced their bids, they’re not campaigning on that as their top asset.
Raskin, Lynch and Connolly are each subcommittee chairs — overseeing Civil Rights and Civil Liberties; National Security; and Government Operations, respectively — and their current posts highlight some of the different focuses they would bring to the full committee.
Lynch, for example, said he wants to prioritize voting reforms next year and stressed his experience with hands-on investigations. He’s led congressional trips to eastern Europe and the Ukrainian border to reinforce congressional support for Kyiv, pairing those visits with hearings and information requests on Russia.
“I think getting on the ground and helping members understand … that function of the committee, which is the heart and soul of its operation, is something I probably have an advantage in,” Lynch said, who described the race as a “jump ball.”
Asked about being the most senior Democrat on the panel who’s running for the top spot, Lynch said he thought seniority was “a factor” but “I don’t think it’s the single most important factor. It has been in the past, but I don’t know that it is now.”
Connolly said he thought Raskin had done a “terrific job” with his work on the Jan. 6 select committee, but contended that Oversight had a “slightly different mission.”
“We deal with the nuts and bolts of government. And it’s very granular oversight that may seem obscure, but often those issues are hinges to much bigger things,” Connolly, whose state has a substantial number of government workers, said in a brief interview.
Connolly previously lost to Maloney in 2019’s race for the top spot on the Oversight Committee. Lynch also ran that year but dropped out before the caucus voted. Among those backing Connolly include Foreign Affairs Chair Gregory Meeks (D-N.Y.) and Reps. Susan Wild (D-Pa.) and Don Beyer (D-Va.), while Lynch pointed to Financial Services Chair Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) and Reps. Danny Davis (D-Ill.) and Lori Trahan (D-Mass.) as some of those supporting him.