Linda Sanchez announces bid for Crowley’s spot atop Dem Caucus

Linda Sanchez announces bid for Crowley’s spot atop Dem Caucus
© Greg Nash

Rep. Linda SanchezLinda Teresa SánchezFirst major 'Medicare for All' hearing sharpens attacks on both sides WHIP LIST: The 228 House Democrats backing an impeachment inquiry We can accelerate a cure for Alzheimer's MORE (D-Calif.) announced Tuesday that she will seek to replace Rep. Joseph Crowley (D-N.Y.) as head of the House Democratic Caucus next year.

Sanchez, who currently serves as vice chair of the caucus, sits just below Crowley in the leadership rankings, and she’s made it crystal clear she intends to move up the ladder as space opens up.

The opportunity to run for caucus chair, the No. 4 position in the Democratic conference, came in remarkable fashion following Crowley's stunning primary defeat in late June.

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Crowley, a popular 10-term lawmaker with eyes on the highest tiers of leadership, was defeated last month by Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a 28-year-old liberal activist who ran as an insurgent alternative to business-as-usual politics in the Democratic Party. 

Sanchez, an eight-term lawmaker representing the Los Angeles suburbs, said in announcing her run Tuesday that she’d work to expand leadership opportunities to newer lawmakers — a message of some significance in a caucus where the top three leaders have been in place for a decade.

“Leadership is about serving others, not serving yourself. As Caucus Chair, I will continue to work collaboratively and inclusively to utilize the full range of talent on our team,” Sanchez wrote in a letter to House Democrats. 

“I am committed to doing everything I can to put the Democratic Caucus in the strongest position as we fight to take back the majority and maintain it for years to come.”

Crowley, for his part, hailed Sanchez on Tuesday as “a dear friend … and a fierce advocate for working families.” But he stopped short of endorsing Sanchez’s ascension to the chairman seat.  

“As my partner in leading the House Democratic Caucus, Linda has helped expand the caucus' outreach and services for our members and has been an insightful voice in developing strategy and messaging,” Crowley said in a brief statement. “She is an extremely valuable part of the Democratic leadership team and has a bright future in our caucus."

Sanchez, 49, has no official challenger at the moment, but Crowley's defeat last month has sparked a flurry of behind-the-scenes posturing, as lawmakers try to position themselves for a possible leadership run if the opportunity arises after November’s midterm elections. 

Rep. Barbara LeeBarbara Jean LeeDeLauro enters race to succeed Lowey as Appropriations chief The 13 House Democrats who back Kavanaugh's impeachment Lawmakers mourn death of 'Julia' star Diahann Carroll MORE (D-Calif.), who was defeated by Sanchez in a razor-thin vote for the vice-chairman spot in 2016, is also making moves for Crowley’s seat but has not formally announced a bid.

After Sanchez announced her candidacy, Lee said she thinks Crowley’s been “very effective as a Caucus chair” and should remain in place through the remainder of his term. 

“I think the consistency — I think it’s good, at least since we’re focused mostly on the elections. I mean, that’s our priority,” she said.

Lee said she hasn’t asked Crowley for his endorsement, but suggested she might in the future.

“I’m still talking to members, but I haven’t talked to him directly,” she said. “But I will.”

Sanchez had made waves in October when she called for a complete ouster of the top three Democratic leaders — Reps. Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiGraham to introduce resolution condemning House impeachment inquiry Democrats say they have game changer on impeachment Hillicon Valley: Zuckerberg would support delaying Libra | More attorneys general join Facebook probe | Defense chief recuses from 'war cloud' contract | Senate GOP blocks two election security bills | FTC brings case against 'stalking' app developer MORE (Calif.), Steny HoyerSteny Hamilton HoyerThis week: Tensions flare over Schiff, impeachment inquiry House Republicans 'demand the release of the rules' on impeachment Scalise, Cole introduce resolution to change rules on impeachment MORE (Md.) and James Clyburn (S.C.) — for the sake of utilizing newer talent within the caucus.

The episode rubbed some leadership allies the wrong way, but also won her accolades from some newer members seeking opportunities to break into leadership. 

On Tuesday, Sanchez urged her Democratic colleagues to take steps now in preparation to lead next year, should the Democrats win back the House. 

“If the American people instill their trust in House Democrats, we must show them that we are ready to lead on the first day,” she wrote. 

“A new Congress gives us the opportunity to take a full assessment of what changes we need to make to ensure our success going forward. However, it is clear that if we wait until next year to have these discussions it will be too late. We must prepare now.” 

– Scott Wong contributed to this report, which was updated at 5:58 p.m.