Hispanic Caucus rallying behind Luján in leadership bid

Leaders of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus (CHC) are rallying behind one of their own, Rep. Ben Ray Luján (D-N.M.), in his bid to become the fourth-ranking Democrat in the House next year.

The CHC is asking its 30 members to sign onto a “Dear Colleague” letter pitching Luján that would be disseminated to the broader Democratic Caucus.

“Can you please let me know if your boss is supportive of CHC sending the letter below in support of Rep. Luján for Assistant Democratic Leader?” Alma Acosta, the CHC’s executive director, asked in an email sent Wednesday evening to the chiefs of staff of all CHC members.

Luján, who heads the Democrats’ campaign arm, jumped into the race for the assistant leader position on Wednesday, one day after he ushered the party to sweeping midterm victories that will shift control of the House next year. The spot is currently held by Rep. James Clyburn (D-S.C.), who is vacating the post to run for the majority whip seat in the next Congress.

Reps. Cheri BustosCheryl (Cheri) Lea BustosDCCC is out of step with Democratic values Climate report makes agri-business a target Farmers have to be part of climate solutions MORE (D-Ill.) and David CicillineDavid Nicola CicillineFirst House Republican backs bill banning assault weapons Hillicon Valley: O'Rourke proposal targets tech's legal shield | Dem wants public review of FCC agreement with T-Mobile, Sprint | Voters zero in on cybersecurity | Instagram to let users flag misinformation Democrat calls for public review of T-Mobile-Sprint merger agreement MORE (D-R.I.), both co-chairs of the Democrats’ messaging arm, are also seeking the assistant leader position, having announced their candidacies more than a month ago. Luján's late jump into the race could complicate his effort to build support, as a number of lawmakers have already committed to either Bustos or Cicilline.

Still, Luján's recent work as chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) — and the midterm victory it helped bring about — lends him a strong case, and there’s a growing sense in the caucus that he’ll be rewarded with a higher leadership post next year. Many Democrats think he’s the hands-on favorite in the race.

The CHC’s endorsement is widely expected, giving Luján the boost of a major minority constituency in the liberal-heavy Democratic Caucus.

The CHC’s “Dear Colleague” letter portrays Luján as a liberal fighter for immigration reform, health-care access and civil liberties, particularly for minority communities and other vulnerable populations. It also touts Luján's historic position as the first Hispanic to lead the DCCC, a post he used to promote the hiring of minority staff and the recruitment of minority candidates.

“He ensured there was real, sustained engagement with communities of color — not simply at the end,” the letter reads. “This week’s victory was in no small part due to Ben Ray Lujan’s commitment.”

Both Bustos and Cicilline have made their own cases for bringing diversity to the leadership table. Cicilline is one of just a handful of openly gay lawmakers on Capitol Hill, while Bustos, whose rural district was carried by President TrumpDonald John TrumpSarah Huckabee Sanders becomes Fox News contributor The US-Iranian scuffle over a ship is a sideshow to events in the Gulf South Korea: US, North Korea to resume nuclear talks 'soon' MORE in 2016, is arguing the need to empower more heartland voices in the top leadership ranks — a call for regional diversity that was particularly trenchant following the election of Trump.

Luján is not the only Hispanic Caucus member seeking a leadership spot next year.

Rep. Linda Sánchez (D-Calif.), currently the vice chairwoman of the caucus, is running to move up a notch and replace outgoing Chairman Joseph Crowley (D-N.Y.), who lost his primary race in June. She’s facing Rep. Barbara LeeBarbara Jean LeeLawmakers urge DNC to name Asian American debate moderator Overnight Health Care: Planned Parenthood to leave federal family planning program absent court action | Democrats demand Trump withdraw rule on transgender health | Cummings, Sanders investigate three drug companies for 'obstructing' probe Democrats demand Trump officials withdraw rule on transgender health MORE (D-Calif.), a member of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) who lost to Sánchez for the vice chairwoman spot by a razor-thin margin two years ago. Many Democrats expect that Rep. Hakeem JeffriesHakeem Sekou JeffriesAnti-Trump vets join Steyer group in pressing Democrats to impeach Trump Appetite for Democratic term limits fizzling out Jeffries dismisses optics: We wanted testimony from Mueller, not Robert De Niro MORE (D-N.Y.), another CBC member, may also jump into that contest.

Rep. Pete AguilarPeter (Pete) Ray AguilarDemocratic leaders seek balance amid liberal push to go big on immigration Katherine Clark quietly eyes leadership ascent The Hill's Morning Report - Crunch time arrives for 2020 Dems with debates on deck MORE (D-Calif.), another CHC member, is running to replace Sánchez as vice chairman. He’s facing Rep. Katherine ClarkKatherine Marlea ClarkThe Hill's Morning Report - Trump searches for backstops amid recession worries Fourth-ranking House Democrat backs Trump impeachment Toni Morrison dies at 88 MORE (D), a Massachusetts lawmaker who raised more than $3.3 million to elect Democrats to the House this year.