Races heat up for House leadership posts

The Big Three in the House Democratic Caucus — Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiPelosi: Trump hurrying to fill SCOTUS seat so he can repeal ObamaCare House lawmakers reach deal to avert shutdown Centrist Democrats 'strongly considering' discharge petition on GOP PPP bill MORE (Calif.), Majority Leader Steny HoyerSteny Hamilton HoyerOn The Money: Powell, Mnuchin stress limits of emergency loans | House seeks to salvage vote on spending bill | Economists tell lawmakers: Kill the virus to heal the economy House moves toward spending vote after bipartisan talks House Democrats mull delay on spending bill vote 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.”

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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 Nicola CicillineClark rolls out endorsements in assistant Speaker race Races heat up for House leadership posts The folly of Cicilline's 'Glass-Steagall for Tech' MORE (D-R.I.) and Tony CardenasAntonio (Tony) CardenasMORE (D-Calif.) have already thrown their hats in the ring; Rep. Katherine ClarkKatherine Marlea ClarkDemocratic leaders: Supreme Court fight is about ObamaCare Rep. Robin Kelly enters race for Democratic caucus vice chair Clark rolls out endorsements in assistant Speaker race 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.

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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 JeffriesDemocratic leaders: Supreme Court fight is about ObamaCare Pelosi: House will stay in session until agreement is reached on coronavirus relief Races heat up for House leadership posts 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 AguilarRep. Robin Kelly enters race for Democratic caucus vice chair Pelosi seeks to put pressure on GOP in COVID-19 relief battle Races heat up for House leadership posts MORE (D-Calif.), Robin KellyRobin Lynne KellyRep. Robin Kelly enters race for Democratic caucus vice chair Hillicon Valley: Oracle confirms deal with TikTok to be 'trusted technology provider' | QAnon spreads across globe, shadowing COVID-19 | VA hit by data breach impacting 46,000 veterans House approves bill to secure internet-connected federal devices against cyber threats MORE (D-Ill.) and Deb HaalandDebra HaalandHispanic caucus report takes stock of accomplishments with eye toward 2021 Rep. Robin Kelly enters race for Democratic caucus vice chair OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Democrats push resolution to battle climate change, sluggish economy and racial injustice | Senators reach compromise on greenhouse gas amendment stalling energy bill | Trump courts Florida voters with offshore drilling moratorium 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 DavidsTrump asked Chamber of Commerce to reconsider Democratic endorsements: report Races heat up for House leadership posts GOP leader says he doesn't want Chamber's endorsement: 'They have sold out' 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 DingellRaces heat up for House leadership posts Michigan Rep. Debbie Dingell easily wins House primary Court orders release of Black Michigan teen who was jailed for missing schoolwork MORE (D-Mich.), Ted LieuTed W. LieuThe spin on Woodward's tapes reveals the hypocrisy of Democrats Larry Kudlow defends response to coronavirus: Trump 'led wisely' Lieu on Trump 'playing it down' on coronavirus: 'This is reckless homicide' MORE (D-Calif.) and Matt CartwrightMatthew (Matt) Alton CartwrightRaces heat up for House leadership posts Trump Jr. seeks to elect 'new blood' to Republican Party Republicans face worsening outlook in battle for House MORE (D-Pa.) — are all vying to become head of the Democrats’ policy and messaging operation.

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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 DingellRaces heat up for House leadership posts Democrats flubbed opportunity to capitalize on postal delays COVID-19 bill limiting liability would strike the wrong balance 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 John TrumpOmar fires back at Trump over rally remarks: 'This is my country' Pelosi: Trump hurrying to fill SCOTUS seat so he can repeal ObamaCare Trump mocks Biden appearance, mask use ahead of first debate 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) NeguseRaces heat up for House leadership posts Trump backs bill to establish suffragist monument in DC Democrats introduce bill to ban chlorpyrifos, other pesticides to protect farmworkers 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 EscobarHispanic caucus report takes stock of accomplishments with eye toward 2021 Races heat up for House leadership posts Ahead of a coronavirus vaccine, Mexico's drug pricing to have far-reaching impacts on Americans 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 BustosThe Hill's Campaign Report: Biden asks if public can trust vaccine from Trump ahead of Election Day | Oklahoma health officials raised red flags before Trump rally DCCC dropping million on voter education program Clark rolls out endorsements in assistant Speaker race 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.

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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 BidenOmar fires back at Trump over rally remarks: 'This is my country' Trump mocks Biden appearance, mask use ahead of first debate Trump attacks Omar for criticizing US: 'How did you do where you came from?' 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 DuckworthMcConnell focuses on confirming judicial nominees with COVID-19 talks stalled Biden courts veterans amid fallout from Trump military controversies John Fogerty: 'Confounding' that Trump campaign played 'Fortunate Son' at rally 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.”