Ohio Democrats Marcy Kaptur and Joyce Beatty seek chairmanships in new Congress
Now that their congressional re-election fights are out of the way, a pair of Ohio Democrats are seeking higher-profile jobs within the U.S. House of Representatives.
Toledo’s Marcy Kaptur is one of three candidates who want to chair the House Appropriations Committee, which controls the federal government’s purse strings. Columbus' Joyce Beatty wants to chair the 55-member Congressional Black Caucus, which fights for the interests of African Americans and other marginalized communities. Beatty is the first candidate to announce she’s seeking the caucus post, which Warrensville Heights Democratic Rep. Marcia Fudge held in 2013 and 2014.
Beatty declared her candidacy in a Tuesday press statement that said she could make an even greater difference for her constituents, the state of Ohio and the country if she’s picked to succeed current chair Karen Bass of California when the CBC holds its leadership elections later this month.
“Next year, the Caucus will mark its 50th anniversary, and as Chair I will work to build upon our previous successes, use my voice to address enduring economic and health disparities, and fight to break the chains of systemic racism that have held back communities of color for far too long,” Beatty’s announcement said.
Kaptur unsuccessfully sought the top appropriations post in 2012, but lost to New York’s Nita Lowey, who is now retiring from Congress. Although she’s served on the committee longer than other contestants for the post - and is the longest-serving female House of Representatives member in U.S. history, the other two candidates may have an edge as they share some of the traits that helped Lowey get the job eight years ago.
Lowey is an ally of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi who headed the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) before getting the Appropriations job. Contender Rosa DeLauro of Connecticut, who chairs the Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education Appropriations Subcommittee, is also tight with Pelosi. What’s more, DeLauro co-chairs the Democratic Steering and Policy Committee, which vets potential committee chairs and gives its pick to the full Democratic caucus.
The third contestant - Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Florida, has less seniority than Kaptur or DeLauro, but formerly chaired the DCCC and the Democratic National Committee. She also serves as the Democratic Caucus’ chief deputy whip and chairs the Military Construction and Veterans Affairs Appropriations Subcommittee.
At the end of November, the trio will make their case to the steering committee that DeLauro chairs, which will issue its recommendation. Kaptur said she expects the full Democratic caucus will end up voting on the chairmanship, no matter who is recommended. With that in mind, she spent much of the past year making her chairmanship case to various Democratic organizations and individual members of the House of Representatives.
“We’re getting material out there to the members so they can make a wise choice,” says Kaptur, adding that many of the newer Congress members don’t like to publicly say who they support.
She’s secured public endorsements from all her Democratic colleagues in Ohio, as well as progressives Mark Takano of California and Rashida Tlaib of Michigan. A letter from Takano and Tlaib highlights Kaptur’s populist criticism of the bank bailout, her objections to passing the Troubled Asset Relief Program, and her opposition to trade agreements that cost jobs in areas like the industrial Midwest.
“Marcy Kaptur has progressive populism in every ideal she has ever championed,” their letter said. “Her efforts represent the will and desire of average Americans in their struggle to keep up with daunting economic and social forces that leave millions of people behind.”
Kaptur says she believes she’s “competitive” with the other two. She says served on 11 of the 12 subcommittees over the years, and has the broadest range of experience “in terms of social, economic and environmental justice.” She also says the roughly $500,000 she’s donated to the DCCC and individual Democratic candidates is around the same amount as her rival.
She is making the case that there’s nobody in the House Democratic leadership ranks from the Midwest, despite its key role in deciding national elections, and argues that because she has served in Congress through so many recessions, she’s best positioned to help the newly elected Biden-Harris administration dig out of the coronavirus pandemic and the related recession.
“I am very much dedicated to bringing up the bottom half, the parts of America that have been forgotten and left behind,” says Kaptur. “That’s what I did before before I got here and it’s what I’ve continued to do as a member of Congress both for my own district and the country. I have a record that demonstrates that.”