Towns confident he can fend off Kucinich challenge for top oversight spot

House Oversight Committee Chairman Edolphus Towns (D-N.Y.) said Wednesday he has the support to stave off a challenge to be the top Democrat on the panel in the next Congress.

"Based on the overwhelming support Rep. Towns is receiving from fellow Democrats, he is confident that he will be Ranking Member," Towns's office said in an e-mail.

Earlier in the day, Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio) officially launched his bid to become ranking member of the powerful committee when the Democrats return to Washington as the minority party next year.

Kucinich said the panel needs a strong Democrat to do battle with incoming-Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), a vocal opponent of the Obama administration who's vowing hundreds of investigations into White House activities next year.

"We cannot simply stand by idly and hope that such a reckless approach to the use of the power of the chair will not happen, especially since it is not only being promised, but demonstrated by the person who will hold the gavel," Kucinich wrote in a "Dear Colleague" letter.

Towns has repeatedly rejected the notion that he's somehow unfit to push back effectively against the looming Issa investigations.

"Just as he has done as Chairman, he will lead Committee Democrats in pursuing their common goals and agenda," Towns's office said. "Any attempt to use this committee as a political weapon are intolerable and he will lead a strong and unified resistance against any such effort."

Kucinich is currently the Oversight panel's fifth-ranking Democrat, with Towns and Reps. Paul Kanjorski (Pa.), Carolyn Maloney (N.Y.) and Elijah Cummings (Md.) all holding seniority over him. Kanjorski lost his reelection bid to Republican Lou Barletta and will not be serving in the 112th Congress.

Maloney's office said last week that she'll support Towns to keep his seat, and Cummings echoed that sentiment on Tuesday.