The 100 poorest Congressional districts represent a rare pillar of stability in the otherwise-tumultuous capital. The Cook Political Report ranks just six of those 100 seats as competitive, meaning the other 94 are not considered competitive. As a result, the members who occupy those seats tend to stick around longer than their colleagues. The average tenure of House members in those seats is 11 years, 22% higher than the Congressional average. Additionally, these members are the gatekeepers for legislation, with 49 percent of them serving in leadership positions on committees and subcommittees, Because these members rarely face competitive general-election contests, they tend to have more freedom than their peers in competitive seats – and raise far less money. Members in the 100 poorest seats, on average, raise $979,000 per two-year election cycle, almost 40% less than the $1.6 million Congressional average.
These members – like their districts – are often neglected in Washington because donors, lobbyists, and even some party leaders on both sides of the aisle tend to take them for granted. Republican and Democrats leaders can be forgiven for this emphasis on their most embattled colleagues because those are the members who decide which parties hold power. But this system values members of Congress with political needs more than constituents with economic ones. As we outlined in our earlier analysis of the 100 poorest Congressional districts, these under-privileged seats represent each parties political base. Thirty of these seats are occupied by members of the Congressional Black Caucus, and another 20 are represented by members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus on the left. Meanwhile, 22 of the 100 poorest districts are represented by members of the Republican Study Committee or House Freedom Caucus on the right.
United By Interest, the city’s only majority minority-owned public affairs, was founded on the belief that policy-making should begin with the members in these 100 poorest Congressional districts. They stick around longer. They have more seniority. They don’t raise as much money as their colleagues. And by joining forces, they form a winning coalition that cannot be ignored by leadership of either party. It is time that Washington paid more attention to these members – and, more importantly, their constituents.