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Joe Crowley Builds Support for Caucus Vice Chairman Bid

Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo
Rep. Anna Eshoo, a close confidante of House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, is a co-chairwoman of Rep. Joe Crowley's (above) campaign for Democratic Caucus vice chairman next Congress, a strong signal that Pelosi is at least unopposed to the New York lawmaker ascending into leadership.

That race was viewed as a proxy fight between Pelosi and Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (Md.), who had campaigned against each other for Whip in 2001.

Pelosi was seen to be backing Schakowsky, and Hoyer backed Crowley. Crowley had backed Hoyer in his campaign against Pelosi.

But after the first round of ballots, Larson came out ahead. Democrats later said Pelosi urged her allies to switch to Larson out of fear Schakowsky would lose.

In part because of the episode, Democrats have wondered whether Pelosi would get involved in this race.

A source close to Pelosi said, "She has told everyone running for anything - chair or leadership or anything - 'Go make your case to the Caucus,' as she is focused on winning back the House."

And one Democratic lobbyist cautioned not to read too much into proxies, saying various unseen factors could be behind it.

But it's unlikely that a Member close to Pelosi would take a prominent role in Crowley's campaign without Pelosi's consent.

Pelosi relies heavily on a group of close allies, the most important of whom is Rep. George Miller (Calif.). But Democrats say Eshoo is royalty in Pelosi's world as one of her closest confidantes.

While Polis is a solid fundraiser, Crowley has raised more than five times as much money as him this cycle, $9.2 million to $1.7 million, giving him more of an opportunity to dole out cash to colleagues and up-and-coming candidates.

The case for Polis is his appeal to both the left of the Caucus and its center. He's a member of the New Democrat Coalition and the Congressional Progressive Caucus. Polis would be the first openly gay Member elected to Democratic leadership.

Right now, the vice chairman race is the only significant leadership fight on the Democratic side to heat up.

However, in the event that Democrats win back control of the House, it would create some new room for leadership contests.

In particular, Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, the Democratic National Committee chairwoman, would vie for the Assistant to the Speaker position. Rep. James Clyburn (S.C.), the current Assistant Minority Leader, would likely ascend to Whip, the third-ranked slot for a majority party and a position he held during the 110th and 111th Congresses.

Numerous Democrats said they still did not know what Wasserman Schultz's Plan B was if Democrats did not win the House. Her spokesman did not reply to a request for comment.

Besides Wasserman Schultz, Reps. Chris Van Hollen (Md.) and Larson, who is vacating the Caucus chairman slot because of term limits, have not announced any specific plans for the next Congress.

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