State Rep. Tim Briggs of Montgomery County will take the reins of the House Democratic Campaign Committee for the 2014 election cycle, effective today.
He steps in as Democrats face a difficult uphill slog to narrow their 111 to 92 minority in the chamber.
“I was disappointed, to be candid,” he said of the 2012 election results. The caucus defeated one incumbent Republican but lost an open seat, leaving it with a net gain of zero. “The Senate saw some big victories and closed the gap. I was hoping we would have picked up a couple of seats.”
“As it got closer I knew the majority wasn’t going to be in reach. But I was hoping in the southeast to take advantage of some of Obama’s popularity.”
Briggs, 42, is beginning his third term in the state House. He’s married with four children.
He represents the 149th district in southern Montgomery County and is an attorney. Those parts of his background could correlate with better access to fundraising networks, but they’re not the only factors in his favor.
Namely, Briggs is a former flack.
“I tried to get Ethan’s job 8 years ago!” he joked about HDCC Executive Director Ethan Smith.
He began his career as a campaign staffer and spent about 8 years raising money for various candidates in and around Montgomery County. Briggs said he raised $4 million as finance director during Congressional hopeful Lois Murphy’s 2004 run against Rep. Jim Gerlach (R-Chester) and also worked for Connie Williams and Joe Hoeffel. He spent time at the Bonner Group, a Democratic fundraising firm based in DC. His work there included some caucus clients such as the Ohio Dems.
Fundraising performance will be the essential element of success for a committee that was outspent nearly 2 to 1 by Republicans in 2012 and didn’t have strong buy-in from Democratic members.
PoliticsPA analyzed several factors in the House Dems’ 2012 performance here.
A significant problem during the last cycle was that now outgoing Chair Brendan Boyle (D-Phila) wasn’t selected for his role until June 2011. Many attributed that delay to the tumultuous post-2010 political landscape, which featured sparring factions of the House Dems.
Though seemingly a long time from the election, the first six months of a cycle are key for a committee to recruit candidates and to develop financial resources. It’s a handicap that Democratic leadership was determined to avoid this year.
Boyle said in November that he would be stepping down from HDCC, having intended to serve only a single term. Rep. Steve Santarsiero (D-Bucks) was also widely considered to be a candidate for HDCC Chair.
Another significant 2012 setback is out of their hands: the chaos surrounding the redistricting process. With the map yet to be finalized, Briggs will now face the pending uncertainty about what the districts will look like.
“I think we have to look at southeastern seats, that’s where our growth is going to be,” he said, and stressed his determination to strengthen recruiting efforts. “The trend in the suburbs of Philadelphia is just happening quicker than they can draw a map to protect.”
He acknowledged that it will take a few cycles before Democrats have a shot to recapture the majority.
“The majority is a goal. Magic could happen and we could get there. It’s not something we’re writing off. But I’m a little realistic that this is gonna be a couple cycles before we can vote for our own Speaker,” he said.
The precise composure of the other team is yet to be determined. State Rep. Dave Reed (R-Indiana) is the Chairman of the House Republican Campaign Committee. He directed the HRCC during its historic surge in 2010 and its successful effort to hold the line in 2012. But he says he doesn’t expect to remain in the role for 2014.
“That is generally not my intention. We’ll see how that discussion goes over the next couple of months,” Reed said. “Right now everybody – particularly myself being Policy Chair – we’re really just focused on the legislative issues that will be coming up in the next couple of months. Campaigns are a couple years away.”
But he welcomed Briggs to the game.
“Tim has always been a very studious legislator and I’m sure he’s been active politically down in the southeastern portion of the state. He would certainly appear to be a solid choice by the House Democrats,” Reed said.
Both men will have the opportunity to flex their muscles this spring, as Democrats seek to hold onto the seats of Eugene DePasquale and Matt Smith. Each was elected to higher office – DePasquale as Auditor General, Smith as state Senator – precipitating two state House special elections.