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 chair: Brooks retirement signals challenge for GOP women DCCC chair: Brooks retirement signals challenge for GOP women Democrats set to use McConnell's legislative graveyard against him MORE (D-Ill.) and David CicillineDavid Nicola CicillineOvernight Defense: Trump doubles down on claim Iran attacked tankers | Iran calls accusations 'alarming' | Top nuke official quietly left Pentagon | Pelosi vows Congress will block Saudi arms sale Overnight Defense: Trump doubles down on claim Iran attacked tankers | Iran calls accusations 'alarming' | Top nuke official quietly left Pentagon | Pelosi vows Congress will block Saudi arms sale Pelosi: Congress will block Trump's arms sales to Saudi Arabia 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 TrumpTrump defends Stephanopolous interview Trump defends Stephanopolous interview Buttigieg on offers of foreign intel: 'Just call the FBI' 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 LeeDems eye repeal of Justice rule barring presidential indictments Dems eye repeal of Justice rule barring presidential indictments Democrats set stage for next shutdown fight with wall-free spending bill 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 JeffriesDems eye repeal of Justice rule barring presidential indictments Dems eye repeal of Justice rule barring presidential indictments Dem committees win new powers to investigate Trump MORE (D-N.Y.), another CBC member, may also jump into that contest.

Rep. Pete AguilarPeter (Pete) Ray AguilarHouse passes bill to protect 'Dreamers' House passes bill to protect 'Dreamers' Pro-business Dem group sees boost in fundraising MORE (D-Calif.), another CHC member, is running to replace Sánchez as vice chairman. He’s facing Rep. Katherine ClarkKatherine Marlea ClarkOvernight Health Care: Major doctors group votes to oppose single-payer | Panel recommends wider use of HIV prevention pill | New lawsuit over Trump 'conscience protection' rule Overnight Health Care: Major doctors group votes to oppose single-payer | Panel recommends wider use of HIV prevention pill | New lawsuit over Trump 'conscience protection' rule Democrats scuttle attempt to strike Hyde Amendment from spending bill MORE (D), a Massachusetts lawmaker who raised more than $3.3 million to elect Democrats to the House this year.