- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 6, 2017

Some Democratic ranks increasingly think it’s time to look beyond the party’s current crop of liberal firebrands such as Sens. Bernard Sanders and Elizabeth Warren and turn to the next generation to find leadership for the 2020 presidential election.

Particularly in New Hampshire, which prides itself on being the gatekeeper for presidential nominees, activists say the issues have shifted to global warming and gay rights, among others, and younger voters are looking for younger voices to represent them.

Kathy Sullivan, a Democratic National Committee member from New Hampshire who backed Hillary Clinton in the 2008 and 2016 primaries, has suggested that anyone who was alive when President Kennedy delivered his inaugural address in 1961 should stay out of the race.

That would disqualify Mrs. Clinton and former Vice President Joseph R. Biden, as well as Mr. Sanders and Ms. Warren.

“Given that these are the generations who are most affected, I think it just makes sense that there is a voice representing them and someone who can speak with passion on these issues in a way that those of us who are in the gray hair stages don’t have,” Mrs. Sullivan told The Washington Times just ahead of her 63rd birthday last month.

“Yes, we have experience, we have knowledge to make an impact, but at some point you have to say that it is time for the next group to come along,” she said of her generation.

Activists generally said that their demand for new blood shouldn’t be seen as a slap at their elders but instead as a recognition of political realities.

The hope for new blood is compounded by the face of the Republican Party, President Trump, who became the oldest person ever to assume the office — though he is also masterful at harnessing communications methods that are popular among far younger voters.

Democrats are yearning to find someone who can provide the right contrast, said James M. Demers, a veteran Democratic consultant who co-chaired Barack Obama’s New Hampshire operation in 2008 and supported Mrs. Clinton last year.

“There is a large number of Democrats who are talking about a candidate who is part of the next generation of leaders, and it is not that they have a problem with Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders or Joe Biden,” Mr. Demers told The Washington Times. “But they think 2020 is going to mark a time when voters are going to be looking for dramatic change. Not just changing from Donald Trump but changing the face of the Democratic Party.”

The calls for change stretch from the presidential race to Capitol Hill.

Senate Democrats this year got a new leader in Charles E. Schumer of New York after 12 years under Harry Reid. But House Democrats continue to be led by Nancy Pelosi, who has helmed their caucus since late 2002, marking an extraordinary period of continuity.

Mrs. Pelosi has easily thwarted efforts to replace her, though, showing the staying power of the older generation within the Democratic Party.

The California Democrat has made clear she will exit on her own schedule, and for now, despite a string of election losses, Mrs. Pelosi’s fellow House members appear willing to give her that leeway.

That is unlikely to be the case for the next presidential contest, however, where Mr. Sanders could struggle against a deeper field to re-create his showing from last year’s primary race.

“Unfortunately, I think anybody who has been in office for very long has too much baggage,” said Lori Cobbs, a 47-year-old who backed Democrat Jon Ossoff’s recent congressional bid in Georgia.

“Whether it is right or wrong, there is just too much stuff. I think right now we need the Kennedy kind of thing. We need the young guys who come with a clean slate. They are idealistic, they have lots of energy,” she said.

After casting his vote last month in the Virginia Democratic primary, John Eisenhour gave a more blunt assessment. He said he doesn’t think Mr. Sanders “has a prayer” in 2020 and Mrs. Clinton is irrelevant after her failure against Mr. Trump last year.

“I think what you need is somebody in a 50s kind of age group who can bring the various pieces together,” the 78-year-old said. “It is not somebody who is 70 or 65, because that is just crazy.”

In Iowa, whose caucuses traditionally kick off the primary season, Democrats warned not to mistake “Hillary fatigue” for a general antipathy toward baby boomer candidates.

“There is definitely a feeling that certain people had their time,” said Jessica Vanden Berg, a Democratic consultant. “I don’t know what Bernie is going to do, but I still think there is enthusiasm for him in Iowa, and I would say the same with Elizabeth Warren.”

Democratic voters who showed up at the polls in Georgia’s special election last month also said they would be happy to give Mr. Sanders or Ms. Warren a good look if they run.

Peter Castellino, a 35-year-old campaign volunteer, said he would vote for Mr. Sanders “in a heartbeat.”

“I don’t know if it is best for Bernie to go and start another party, but I am sure there is a huge group of people who would follow him if he did that,” Mr. Castellino said. “He is not going to stop. If he decides to run in 2020, I will surely support him, but we will see.”

If Mr. Sanders enters the race, he is likely to face more competition than he did last year, when he was the only real alternative to Mrs. Clinton.

The contest in 2020 is wide open, said Jaime Harrison, an associate chairman of the Democratic National Committee who recently stepped down as chairman of the South Carolina Democratic Party.

“You sort of get folks who say, ‘We totally need new blood, it is time for the next generation,’” Mr. Harrison said. “You get folks who are saying, ‘Let’s do what is best to win.’ You get folks who think about people like Joe Biden, Bernie or what have you. I think what 2020 is going to provide us with is a chance to see all of that. It is going to be an open field, and let the best person step forward.”

He said the party should hope for something similar to the 2008 presidential primary race, when Mr. Obama and Mrs. Clinton battled it out across the country.

Activists are already preparing their wish lists of next-generation names.

Sens. Cory A. Booker of New Jersey, Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota and Kirsten E. Gillibrand of New York make many lists, as does Sen. Kamala D. Harris, a first-term lawmaker from California, and Sen. Christopher Murphy of Connecticut.

Julian Castro, a former secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban Development, and his twin brother, Rep. Joaquin Castro of Texas, who won a third term last year, also earn some buzz.

Those looking to the governors for leadership are keeping their eyes on Montana’s Steve Bullock, 51, the only red-state governor, as well as Govs. Andrew Cuomo of New York, 59, and Terry McAuliffe of Virginia, 60.

Govs. John Hickenlooper of Colorado, 65, Jay Inslee, 66, of Washington and Jerry Brown, 69, of California also are being watched.

Reps. Seth Moulton and Joseph P. Kennedy III of Massachusetts and Tim Ryan of Ohio are on the radar.

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