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 BustosFudge: I have been 'overwhelmed' by support for possible Speaker bid Insurgents seek female challenger to replace Pelosi Sunday shows preview: Trump taps acting attorney general to lead Justice Department MORE (D-Ill.) and David CicillineDavid Nicola CicillineDem rep slams Facebook: It 'cannot be trusted to regulate itself' Number of LGBT lawmakers in Congress hits double digits Momentum builds for Dems to take on campaign finance reform 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 TrumpPaul Ryan defends Navy admiral after Trump's criticism Trump discussing visit overseas to troops following criticism: report Retired Army General: Trump is ‘acting like an 8th grader’ in attacking ex-Navy SEAL who led bin Laden operation 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 LeeDem women rally behind Pelosi This week: Congress starts lame-duck with leadership fight Rep. Linda Sanchez’s husband indicted on corruption charges 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 JeffriesThis week: Congress starts lame-duck with leadership fight Bustos launches bid to head House Dems’ campaign arm Rep. Linda Sanchez’s husband indicted on corruption charges MORE (D-N.Y.), another CBC member, may also jump into that contest.

Rep. Pete AguilarPeter (Pete) Ray AguilarHispanic Caucus rallying behind Luján in leadership bid Hispanic Dems want answers on detention of immigrant minors Aguilar launches bid for Democratic leadership position MORE (D-Calif.), another CHC member, is running to replace Sánchez as vice chairman. He’s facing Rep. Katherine ClarkKatherine Marlea ClarkHouse Democrats have power to stop mass shootings in America Hispanic Caucus rallying behind Luján in leadership bid Election Countdown: Violence casts cloud before midterms | Clinton opens door to 2020 | Trump calls Gillum a 'thief' | Dems worry about midterm message | Trump camp's midterm ad doesn't feature president MORE (D), a Massachusetts lawmaker who raised more than $3.3 million to elect Democrats to the House this year.