Washington Prowler

Frosty Toward Frost

Nancy Pelosi needs his help but isn't man enough to ask for it.

By 12.9.02

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Moderates in the House Democratic Caucus are pressuring new leader Nancy Pelosi to appoint Rep. Martin Frost to his old position as head of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, which he'd previously run during the 1998 election cycle. Frost was credited with picking up House seats for Democrats that year, helping to hasten the exit of then-Speaker Newt Gingrich.

"Giving him that slot would help bridge the gap between us and Pelosi," says a conservative Democratic House member in town for a caucus conference hosted by Pelosi. "But more important, he's good at recruiting candidates and fundraising for the party. If we need anything, we need people with those skills. The minority leader can't afford to let any bad blood between her and Frost cloud the realities of where we need to be as a caucus."

That's not the sort of advice Pelosi, the liberal from San Francisco, seems willing to heed. Over the weekend and on Monday there were persistent reports that the new Democratic minority leader had narrowed her choice for the critical job of DCCC chair to Rep. William Jefferson of Louisiana, Sherrod Brown of Ohio and Mike Thompson of California.

Frost and liberal Ed Markey of Massachusetts have both been mentioned in media reports since Pelosi's ascension, but Jefferson has been a name front and center, in part because of the dearth of black Democrats in leadership. The Congressional Black Caucus has been pressing for Jefferson's appointment, despite ongoing questions about his failure to repay campaign debts from previous elections.

Thompson and Brown are both cookie-cutter liberals in the mold of Pelosi. Jefferson is only marginally less liberal than the other candidates and isn't particularly close to Pelosi, which is perhaps why she's hesitant to bring him on.

"She's probably thinking that if the next election cycle goes like this past one, she's one and done," says the conservative Democrat. "Why gamble? Which is just another reason why she should go with Frost."

Pelosi brought the Democratic House members to Washington for a two-day conference on the election lost and to discuss ways to develop an economic plan for the coming congressional session. But it isn't just House members feeling their way toward the future. Democratic National Committee chairman Terry McAuliffe has been meeting with prominent Democrats around the country to discuss the election. Recently he met with New Mexico Gov.-elect Bill Richardson and had plans to sit down with Democratic bigs in Arizona, California and Texas. The New Mexico and Arizona discussions were probably the most informative, if only because those are two states where Democrats actually performed well in races against solid Republican competition.

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