Rep. Seth Moulton's plan to overhaul House Democrats with a 'new generation of leaders'
Posted November 29, 2017 6:59 p.m. EST
WASHINGTON (CNN) — Rep. Seth Moulton of Massachusetts -- who has vented for months about House Democrats' leadership -- has big ambitions for the military veterans he is backing in the 2018 midterm elections.
"I'm literally recruiting a new generation of leaders for the party," he said in an interview Wednesday.
The 39-year-old Marine veteran who served four tours of duty in Iraq has emerged as a leading fund-raiser and candidate recruiter for Democrats, even as he has called to oust House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi.
Moulton is rolling out a list Thursday of eight more House candidates -- all military veterans -- he is endorsing in the 2018 midterm elections. That brings the list of Moulton-backed candidates to 19.
The endorsements come on top of a travel schedule that has included recent trips to Iowa for a steak fry in Des Moines and to New Hampshire ahead of this year's municipal elections. It's all fed speculation that Moulton could be eyeing a 2020 presidential run -- and has elevated him into conversations about the list of vice presidential prospects.
Moulton deflected questions about his own future -- but cast his support for military veterans as an indictment of Democrats' existing leadership.
"The historic problem with the party as I see it is recruiting talented leaders," Moulton said. "So that's why I'm focusing on the House and specifically on recruitment."
"The Democratic Party has been a party of reaction -- a party of opposition, complaining about Trump and the Republicans, rather than offering a lot of our own ideas and our own vision," he said. "And my view is that if Democrats want to start winning again, we have to start leading again."
Among the Democratic House candidates Moulton is endorsing Thursday are Navy veteran and Mega Millions lottery winner Gil Cisneros in Republican Rep. Ed Royce's California district, Air Force veteran and Teach For America alum Chrissy Houlahan against Rep. Ryan Costello of Pennsylvania, CIA veteran Elissa Slotkin against Rep. Mike Bishop of Michigan and Marine veteran Jared Golden against Rep. Bruce Poliquin of Maine.
Moulton is also backing Gina Ortiz Jones against Rep. Will Hurd of Texas, Brendan Kelly against Rep. Mike Bost of Illinois, Conor Lamb for retired Rep. Tim Murphy's Pennsylvania district and Max Rose against Rep. Daniel Donovan of New York.
Moulton's strategy of backing veterans matches the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee's heavy focus on recruiting veterans -- particularly those with business experience -- who can appeal to moderate and Republican-leaning suburban voters.
It's his criticism of Pelosi and Democratic leadership that has rankled some within the party. After Jon Ossoff spent more than $30 million but lost a House special election in the Atlanta suburbs in June, Moulton tweeted that the results "better be a wake up call for Democrats -- business as usual isn't working. Time to stop rehashing 2016 and talk about the future."
Moulton said he is telling veterans who are running for House seats "to be authentic leaders just like they were in the military."
"We just don't have enough of that right now," he said.