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 BustosProgressives to target Dem reps in 2020 primary fights GOP maps out early 2020 strategy to retake House Dem rep: ‘Partial wall’ is fine MORE (D-Ill.) and David CicillineDavid Nicola CicillineHillicon Valley: Trump AG pick signals new scrutiny on tech giants | Wireless providers in new privacy storm | SEC brings charges in agency hack | Facebook to invest 0M in local news Dems introduce bills to block offshore drilling Conway's husband rips Trump for saying Tlaib 'dishonored' herself with profane call for impeachment 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 directed Cohen to lie to Congress about plans to build Trump Tower in Moscow during 2016 campaign: report DC train system losing 0k per day during government shutdown Senate Republicans eye rules change to speed Trump nominees 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 LeeDemocrats vow to lift ban on federal funds for abortions Live coverage: House elects new Speaker as Dems take charge Ocasio-Cortez eyeing Jeffries as 2020 target: report 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 JeffriesBlack Caucus sees power grow with new Democratic majority New Dem caucus chairman: Some wall is good, but not new wall Jeffries drops Naughty by Nature reference in nominating Pelosi MORE (D-N.Y.), another CBC member, may also jump into that contest.

Rep. Pete AguilarPeter (Pete) Ray AguilarDem added to Ways and Means Committee amid desire for more Hispanic members Dreamers-for-wall trade going nowhere in House DeGette dropped from chief deputy whip spot MORE (D-Calif.), another CHC member, is running to replace Sánchez as vice chairman. He’s facing Rep. Katherine ClarkKatherine Marlea ClarkHispanic Caucus picks Castro as its next chair Progressive rep says she’s ‘very disappointed' by Barbara Lee’s loss in bid for Dem caucus chair Clark wins spot as Dem Caucus vice chair MORE (D), a Massachusetts lawmaker who raised more than $3.3 million to elect Democrats to the House this year.