“Steny ... has been an instrumental part of our leadership team, reaching out to all elements of our diverse Caucus and helping to bring Democrats together,” the letter stated. “Our continued unity is imperative, and we believe that the leadership team that brought us to this point should continue to lead us in the new Majority.”
In addition, the significant time Hoyer has spent over the past two years building a base of support among junior Democrats, including challengers and open-seat candidates, by raising money and making campaign visits to 80 districts, appears ready to pay dividends, as several Members-elect confirmed Wednesday that they will cast ballots for the Maryland lawmaker next week.
“I watched Steny Hoyer for the last few months,” said Rep.-elect Albio Sires (D-N.J.), one of several incoming House Democrats who now support Hoyer’s bid. “He has worked very hard to keep the Caucus unified and worked on electing new Members. ... I think he has real authentic qualities that earn him a lot of support.”
Rep.-elect Brad Ellsworth (D-Ind.) said Murtha called him on Tuesday night, but he was still backing Hoyer, whom he first met in early 2005.
“It’s like in anything — when you establish a relationship of trust, it makes the decision easier,” Ellsworth said. “Congressman Hoyer was one of the first people in April ’05 that I met with when I went to [Washington, D.C.] to decide if I was going to run. Since that time, I have been in contact with him a dozen times or more. ... It just feels more natural due to the relationship that we have that I would support him.”
Ellsworth said Murtha called him on Tuesday night to congratulate him on his victory over Rep. John Hostettler (R-Ind.), but has had no other contact with the Pennsylvania Democrat. “It was on Election Night, a short conversation to congratulate me,” Ellsworth said.
Hoyer gave nearly $14,000 to Ellsworth’s campaign, while Murtha donated $4,000.
While House lawmakers backing Murtha acknowledge that he does not have one particular base of support, they claim that Murtha will instead draw endorsements from across the Caucus.
“It’s not a factionalized race,” Rep. Mike Capuano (D-Mass.), a Murtha backer, said Wednesday.
The Massachusetts lawmaker also added that he has advised Members-elect not to offer endorsements in the race prior to arriving in Washington next week for an organizational meeting of the Caucus
“My hope is that not a single new Member would spend a single second thinking about these leadership races before Tuesday,” Capuano said.
In addition to the Majority Leader competition, Democrats could see a contest for control of the third-ranking post of Majority Whip.
Although House Democratic Caucus Chairman James Clyburn (D-S.C.) remained the only active candidate for the post Wednesday evening it is possible that Emanuel, who has said he will not serve a second term as DCCC chairman, will make a bid for the office.
Appearing at a press briefing Wednesday, Emanuel declined to discuss his plans, asserting that he wanted to confer with fellow lawmakers before issuing a decision. “Give me 24 hours more to decide,” he said.