Races heat up for House leadership posts

The Big Three in the House Democratic Caucus — Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiThe Hill's 12:30 Report: Dems look to repackage BBB into salvageable bill The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Biden clarifies his remarks on Russia Democrats hope to salvage Biden's agenda on Manchin's terms  MORE (Calif.), Majority Leader Steny HoyerSteny Hamilton HoyerPelosi says she's open to stock trading ban for Congress Former Maryland rep announces bid for old House seat Fury over voting rights fight turns personal on Capitol Hill  MORE (Md.) and Majority Whip James Clyburn (S.C.) — are expected to cruise to reelection in the caucus, keeping the top leadership team intact for another two years.

But with less than eight weeks until the Nov. 3 elections, ambitious Democrats have started making calls and jockeying for the other leadership slots seen as stepping stones to more high-profile jobs.

“Seems the list of people running is longer than those not running,” joked one House Democratic lawmaker. “Suffice to say it is very active.”


Closed-door leadership elections will take place shortly after the general election. Here is the state of play.


Assistant Speaker

With Assistant Speaker Ben Ray Luján (D-N.M.) poised to win a promotion to the Senate this fall, his impending departure has set off a competitive three-way scramble to fill his leadership post.

Reps. David CicillineDavid CicillineDemocrats eager to fill power vacuum after Pelosi exit In their own words: Lawmakers, staffers remember Jan. 6 insurrection Lawmakers call for investigation into proposed AT&T WarnerMedia, Discovery merger MORE (D-R.I.) and Tony CardenasAntonio (Tony) CardenasMORE (D-Calif.) have already thrown their hats in the ring; Rep. Katherine ClarkKatherine Marlea ClarkGOP Reps. Greene, Clyde accrue nearly 0K in combined mask fines Democrat speaks out on double standards, sexism and politics of 'going gray' Top House Democrat pushes for 'isolation boxes' for maskless lawmakers MORE (D-Mass.), who’s been making calls to shore up support, is expected to join them.

All three lawmakers have their strengths, and people tracking the race say there is no clear front-runner at the moment. As head of the Democratic Policy and Communications Committee (DPCC), Cicilline has experience at the leadership table and played a key role in shaping the party’s messaging against the Trump White House. He’s also co-chair of the Congressional LGBT Equality Caucus and the top openly gay Democrat on Pelosi’s leadership team.


But either a Cardenas or Clark victory would satisfy factions who have been clamoring for a woman or a Hispanic American to fill one of the open top leadership posts. Cardenas has run the Congressional Hispanic Caucus (CHC) BOLD PAC, raising millions for Democrats and growing the membership of the CHC.

Clark, the House Democratic Caucus’s vice chair, is the highest-ranking woman in leadership after Pelosi. She’s a proven fundraiser as well and has been building bridges with minority and female Democrats, who will be instrumental in choosing the next assistant Speaker.


Democratic caucus vice chair

Caucus Chairman Hakeem JeffriesHakeem Sekou JeffriesWATCH: The Hill recaps the top stories of the week Fury over voting rights fight turns personal on Capitol Hill  Senate GOP blocks election bill, setting up filibuster face-off MORE (D-N.Y.), seen by many to be the heir apparent to Pelosi, is staying put in his job managing the 232-member caucus. But with his deputy, Clark, looking to move up the ladder, a handful of rank-and-file Democrats are eyeing the vice chairman job.

At least three lawmakers — Reps. Pete AguilarPeter (Pete) Ray AguilarBass raises nearly million since launching LA mayor campaign Joining Pelosi, Hoyer says lawmakers should be free to trade stocks House Democratic conference postponed due to COVID-19 MORE (D-Calif.), Robin KellyRobin Lynne KellyThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Uber - New vaccine mandate in NYC; Biden-Putin showdown The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Uber - Omicron tests vaccines; Bob Dole dies at 98 Maternal and child health legislation must be prioritized now MORE (D-Ill.) and Deb HaalandDeb HaalandOvernight Energy & Environment — Lummis holds up Biden EPA picks Overnight Energy & Environment — Biden officials announce clean energy plans Biden administration announces actions bolstering clean energy  MORE (D-N.M.) — have started making calls to colleagues about the vice chair job, sources said. Aguilar, a chief deputy whip and member of the Hispanic Caucus elected in 2014, was defeated by Clark two years ago in the race for vice chair. But he could see an edge if Cardenas loses his assistant Speaker’s race and Democrats want to ensure the CHC has a seat at the table.

“If Cardenas loses, Pete Aguilar would be the only Hispanic person running for leadership,” one Democratic source noted.

Kelly, who won a 2013 special election, is a popular member of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) and respected by colleagues. She served with former President Obama in the Illinois statehouse and is co-chair of the Gun Violence Prevention Task Force.

Haaland, the former New Mexico Democratic Party chair, made history in 2018 when she became one of the first two female Native Americans elected to Congress, along with Rep. Sharice DavidsSharice DavidsKansas GOP's redistricting plan targets Rep. Sharice Davids Abortion rights group endorsing 12 House Democrats Overnight Health Care — Presented by Altria — Vulnerable House Dems push drug pricing plan MORE (D-Kan.).


Democratic Policy and Communications Committee chair

With Cicilline looking for a promotion, his three deputies — DPCC co-Chairs Debbie DingellDeborah (Debbie) Ann DingellProtecting seniors from guardianship fraud and abuse Nunes formally resigns from Congress Lawmakers in both parties to launch new push on Violence Against Women Act MORE (D-Mich.), Ted LieuTed W. LieuBass raises nearly million since launching LA mayor campaign Space race needs better cybersecurity  Buttigieg touts supply achievements at ports of Los Angeles, Long Beach MORE (D-Calif.) and Matt CartwrightMatthew (Matt) Alton CartwrightNew York House Democrat tests positive for COVID-19 Dearborn office of Rep. Debbie Dingell vandalized With Build Back Better, Dems aim to correct messaging missteps MORE (D-Pa.) — are all vying to become head of the Democrats’ policy and messaging operation.


Until the last Congress, the DPCC had operated with three co-equal chairs, but Pelosi created the top post for Cicilline to avert a competitive race between two of her allies, Cicilline and Luján, for the assistant Speaker job.

Dingell is a close Pelosi ally who won the seat of her husband, the late Rep. John DingellJohn DingellDearborn office of Rep. Debbie Dingell vandalized Rep. Dingell hospitalized for surgery on perforated ulcer Races heat up for House leadership posts MORE, in 2014. Lieu, elected to Congress that same year, would bring a strong Asian American voice to the table; he’s earned a national following by taking daily jabs at President TrumpDonald TrumpJudge rules Alaska governor unlawfully fired lawyer who criticized Trump Giuliani led fake electors plot: CNN Giuliani associate sentenced to a year in prison in campaign finance case MORE on his favorite social media platform: Twitter. Cartwright, who ousted Rep. Tim Holden in a 2012 Democratic primary, serves on the powerful House Appropriations Committee.

If one of the three DPCC co-chairs pulls ahead in endorsements, the others could fall back and seek reelection to their current leadership posts. But there are already a handful of rank-and-file lawmakers lining up to succeed them. Rep. Joe NeguseJoseph (Joe) NeguseCO lawmakers ask DOJ to investigate police's knowledge about alleged shooter Biden addresses Coloradans after wildfires: 'Incredible courage and resolve' Overnight Energy & Environment — Virginia gears up for fight on Trump-era official MORE (D-Colo.), a CBC member and rising star of the freshman class, has been calling colleagues about running for one of the three DPCC co-chair jobs. Neguse and Rep. Veronica EscobarVeronica EscobarDesperate Dems signal support for cutting Biden bill down in size Jan. 6 brings Democrats, Cheneys together — with GOP mostly absent In their own words: Lawmakers, staffers remember Jan. 6 insurrection MORE (D-Texas) now serve as the two freshman liaisons to Pelosi’s leadership team; Escobar is running for Hispanic Caucus chair.


Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee chair

Most Democrats expect Rep. Cheri BustosCheryl (Cheri) Lea BustosSwalwell slams House Republican for touting funding in bill she voted down To boost economy and midterm outlook, Democrats must pass clean energy bill On The Trail: Retirements offer window into House Democratic mood MORE (D-Ill.) to return for another term heading the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC). After a rash of staff resignations last year over complaints about the campaign arm’s diversity problems, Bustos made a string of new hires prioritizing diversity and seems to have steadied the ship and quieted her critics.


But neither she nor her team are tipping their hand as they turn their focus toward preserving their 232-198 majority this fall.

There are other variables too. If Democratic presidential nominee Joe BidenJoe BidenNew York woman arrested after allegedly spitting on Jewish children Former Sen. Donnelly confirmed as Vatican ambassador Giuliani associate sentenced to a year in prison in campaign finance case MORE defeats Trump, it could set off a game of musical chairs that could have a ripple effect in House leadership races, Democratic sources said. For example, if Biden taps Sen. Tammy DuckworthLadda (Tammy) Tammy DuckworthThese Senate seats are up for election in 2022 Democrats call on Biden administration to ease entry to US for at-risk Afghans We must learn from the Afghanistan experience — starting with the withdrawal MORE (D-Ill.) for a Cabinet role, Bustos, Kelly or another Illinois Democrat could be appointed to her Senate seat.   

Some sources pointed to Cardenas, a talented fundraiser, as someone who could step into the job of DCCC chair if Bustos passes on another term.

“There are a lot of wild cards,” said a Democratic aide. “Some people think [Cardenas] could be a natural pick at DCCC.”