In bid for ranking spot on Foreign Affairs, Dem Rep. Engel finds GOP support

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Royce and his office declined to comment. But in joining a majority of California's Republican congressional delegation in supporting Berman last month, he said that “in every measure of a legislator, from his command of the issues, to his effectiveness, Howard stands head and shoulders above the rest” — an indirect jab at Sherman.

A third candidate, American Samoa Del. Eni Faleomavaega, has also announced his intention to run for the top Democratic spot.

Engel, well aware of Berman's positive reputation as a low-key champion of bipartisan compromise, has sought to portray himself as being cast from the same mold. Sherman, by contrast, is widely seen as being more abrasive.

“I have worked with Mr. Royce for a number of years on the committee. We're friends. We have reached out to each other, we've talked about the possibility of the two of us being respective leaders on the committee of our parties,” Engel told The Hill in a phone interview. “And I have no doubt that should he be the chairman of the committee, that I would work very well with him. And I think that's important, to have someone at the helm as the leading Democrat who works with people, who doesn't come with any kind of antagonisms.”

That's “one reason why I think it would be much easier and smoother for me to be the ranking member.”

Engel said he has also had a good working relationship with Rep. Chris Smith (R-N.J.), who is running against Royce to take over the panel from term-limited Chairwoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.).

Sherman, for his part, pointed out that the other party doesn't get to vote in leadership races.

“I have worked cooperatively with many Republicans on the Foreign Affairs Committee including Rep. Ed Royce and Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen,” Sherman told The Hill in a statement. “However, I am not seeking support from Republicans in my efforts to become the ranking Democratic member on the Foreign Affairs Committee.”