Hispanic Caucus seeks to retain voice in House leadership

Hispanic Caucus seeks to retain voice in House leadership

The Congressional Hispanic Caucus (CHC) is angling to retain its voice in Democratic leadership, fearing the retirement of one of its top members will erode the group's influence.

The push for a spot comes as Assistant Speaker Rep. Ben Ray Luján (D-N.M.) is set to leave the House -- and his current spot in the Democratic leadership -- to run for the Senate seat being vacated by Tom UdallThomas (Tom) Stewart UdallKey races to watch in Tuesday's primaries DHS watchdog to investigate COVID-19 cases in ICE detention facilities Hispanic Caucus makes major ad buy for New Mexico Democratic candidate for House MORE (D) in New Mexico.

Though leadership elections are still more than a year away, talk is already emerging that Rep. Karen BassKaren Ruth BassHouse Democrats unveil measure to condemn police brutality Democrats blast CDC report on minorities and COVID-19 Pelosi: George Floyd death is 'a crime' MORE (D-Calif.), the chairwoman of the Congressional Black Caucus, will run for Luján's position.

ADVERTISEMENT

That has some in the CHC starting to consider a push for a shake up House leadership to ensure a Latino voice remains in one of the top four spots of the Democratic Caucus.

“I want to make sure that Hispanics are represented in leadership, because Ben Ray was the only one represented in the top leadership,” one CHC Democratic lawmaker told The Hill.

“So I want to make sure that continues to be the case. It could be any of the top four spots — but something in the top four.”

Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Trump tweets as tensions escalate across US Judd Gregg: Biden — a path to the presidency, or not Trump asserts his power over Republicans MORE (Calif.), Majority Leader Steny HoyerSteny Hamilton HoyerKey races to watch in Tuesday's primaries Overnight Defense: Democrats expand probe into State IG's firing | House schedules late June votes with defense bill on deck | New Navy secretary sworn in House scheduled to return for votes in late June MORE (Md.) and Whip Jim ClyburnJames (Jim) Enos ClyburnKlobuchar on defense as Floyd death puts spotlight on record Khanna: Coronavirus has 'accelerated' the need for rural broadband Lifting our voices — and votes MORE (S.C.) have occupied the top three positions in Democratic leadership for well over a decade. 

Luján was elected assistant speaker this year after a successful stint as chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC), a position from which he helped the party take over the House in 2018.

Another member of the CHC said they wanted to ensure upcoming leadership elections are “an inclusive process” and that the future of leadership is “reflective of our caucus.”

"We need to be included in these discussions," the source told The Hill, adding they were working to ensure leadership understood that.

“The Democratic Caucus, and the leadership of the Democratic caucus should look like the Democratic Caucus. And so I think that it should be diverse. And I think the CHC should have someone at the leadership table,” the source said.

With Hispanic voters expected to play a key role in the outcome of the 2020 election, members  of the group said they feel it would be a misstep not to have representation in leadership.

"Historically speaking, for the last 20 years there's always been a member of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus that's been the top five positions," another CHC member said.

The member added that "Latinos are going to end up being the most pivotal vote" in 2020, and that the group would feel "a total diss" should it not have a Latino presence in the leadership after working to endure Democrats retain the House.

One Democratic lawmaker in the group said they could see Reps. Ruben GallegoRuben GallegoDozens of Democrats plan to vote remotely in a first for the House House members race to prepare for first-ever remote votes Arizona health department told university to stop doing COVID-19 modeling MORE (D-Ariz.), the first vice chair of the CHC, Rep. Tony Cárdenas (D-Calif.) or Pete AguilarPeter (Pete) Ray AguilarDozens of Democrats plan to vote remotely in a first for the House Biden rolls out over a dozen congressional endorsements after latest primary wins Biden rise calms Democratic jitters MORE (D-Calif.) as potential contenders, while another floated CHC Chairman Joaquin CastroJoaquin CastroCHC says George Floyd death shows 'tiny fraction' of what people of color confront in their daily lives Julián Castro launches PAC to support progressive candidates Minority lawmakers gain unprecedented clout amid pandemic MORE (D-Texas).

Cárdenas broke out as a top fundraiser and talent recruiter as head of Bold PAC, the CHC campaign arm, over the past five years.

But his immediate leadership aspirations were derailed by an accusation of sexual misconduct in 2007 while he was a Los Angeles city councilman.

Cárdenas strongly denied the allegations, which are due to be reviewed in a civil trial in California that starts in August.

Gallego previously considered a Senate bid, but ultimately opted not to run to avoid a bruising primary fight against astronaut Mark Kelly, who is currently the favorite to face off against Sen. Martha McSallyMartha Elizabeth McSallyThe Hill's Campaign Report: Minneapolis protests rock the nation Democrats gear up to hit GOP senators on DACA Pence names new press secretary MORE (R-Ariz.) in the 2020 race.

Both Aguilar and Castro have a close relationships with Pelosi, having worked with her and other current Democratic leadership members closely on immigration issues.

“I think there are many that not just have the trust of the entire caucus, but that have been putting in the work as well. And so, you know, I think we'll see a number of members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus be considered for different leadership positions going forward," said one of the CHC members.

ADVERTISEMENT

For now, lawmakers are reluctant to publicly throw their hats into the ring to fill Luján's position, as uncertainty abounds about what a broader leadership race will look like after the 2020 election.

A member of the Congressional Black Caucus acknowledged that "it's important to me that there'd be Latino representation, no question about that.”

But the member also warned it was still early.

"There could be other movements, so you don't know,” the member said. 

Luján himself said he doesn’t plan on endorsing anyone to replace him anytime soon. But he noted that he sees a number of members within the CHC with the potential to take on a leading role within the broader caucus.

“I think there are many that not just have the trust of the entire caucus, but that have been putting in the work as well. And so, you know, I think we'll see a number of members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus be considered for different leadership positions going forward,” he told The Hill.