Supporter lists escalate Dems' vice-chair battle

Two of the members of Congress vying to be the next vice chairman of the House Democratic caucus have released the names of new supporters, escalating an already tight race for the fourth-ranking leadership slot among House Democrats.

Rep. Joe Crowley (D-N.Y.) named Democratic Reps. Charlie Melancon (La.), Brian Baird (Wash.) and Russ Carnahan (Mo.), while Rep. Jan Schakowsky (Ill.) indicated she has the support of Reps. John Dingell (Mich.), Henry Waxman (Calif.) and Brad Sherman (Calif.).

Rep. Mike McIntyre (N.C.) is supporting Crowley, his spokesman said.

The new names intensify the heated battle between Schakowsky and Crowley. Crowley now has 51 public supporters to Shakowsky’s 46, but Schakowsky’s new names include some of the caucus’s most senior members.

Dingell, ranking member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, is the House’s longest serving member. He celebrates 50 years in Congress at a star-studded gala tonight.

Waxman, the ranking Democrat on the House Government Reform Committee and second ranking on Energy and Commerce, is one of the caucus’s most influential members.

Rep. John Larson (Conn.), who is also competing for the leadership post, declined through a spokesman to release new names of his supporters. His backers willing to go public now number 20.

“We’re continuing with our policy of not releasing names,” said Brian Mahar, a spokesman for Larson. “That’s been our policy all along to keep private the names of many of our supporters because many have requested that.”

As many as 206 members and delegates of the House may vote in the election for vice chairman.

Schakowsky welcomed her new backing.

“All three of these endorsements are a great boost to my campaign as we continue to gain numbers and move forward,” she said yesterday in a statement. “As all members of the caucus and others in our party join together tonight to celebrate John Dingell’s 50 years of service to the American people, I am so proud that the dean of the House and my chairman on the Commerce Committee has chosen to support me in this race. My campaign will benefit greatly from his wisdom and his experience fighting and winning landmark battles over the years.”

Schakowsky went on to praise Waxman’s leadership.

“I will continue to benefit from his strategic prowess and the respect he has among members,” she said.

Melancon, one of Crowley’s newest supporters, is a freshman representative who prevailed in a tight race in southern Louisiana. Crowley noted that he was pleased that a member such as Melancon, who won in a red state, would back him.

“Charlie Melancon is yet another Democrat who turned a red seat blue who has endorsed my candidacy for vice chairman of the Democratic caucus,” Crowley said.

Melancon is a member of the Blue Dogs, a group of conservative House Democrats who backed Crowley in a vote earlier this fall.

“Charlie joins colleagues from the new democrats, the blue dogs and the progressives, a cross section of our caucus, all regions and all backgrounds, in support of my leadership and strong vision for our united caucus as the next vice chair,” Crowley added.

Sherman leads up the caucus’s member services task force.

The position of vice chairman will open up when Rep. Jim Clyburn (S.C.) moves up to the No. 3 leadership slot, chairman of the caucus, succeeding Rep. Bob Menendez (N.J.), who has his eye on a Senate seat.

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