Politics

The House Democrats Considering Leadership Bids — So Far

Most are keeping their options open for now

House Democratic Caucus Chairman Joseph Crowley, center, lost his primary last month, which opens up his leadership slot in the next Congress. Vice Chairwoman Linda T. Sánchez and DCCC Chairman Ben Ray Luján are current members of leadership who could seek to move up. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Ahead of a potential wave election, few House Democrats have declared their interest in running for specific leadership positions. But more than a dozen are keeping their options open as the caucus members consider how much change they want to see in their top ranks next Congress.

The number of potential Democratic leadership contenders has ballooned since Caucus Chairman Joseph Crowley lost his primary in New York’s 14th District late last month. His leadership position is the only one guaranteed to be open for the next Congress, but his loss has also raised questions about who can usher in the next generation of Democratic leaders

If Democrats retake the majority, their top six leadership positions would be speaker, majority leader, majority whip, assistant leader, caucus chair and caucus vice chair. In the minority, they would have equivalent positions except for speaker. 

Other leadership positions Democrats could run for include Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee chair, one of three Democratic Policy and Communications Committee co-chairs and a post reserved for a member who’s been in Congress for five terms or less. 

Watch: Win or Lose in the Midterms, Top Democratic Leaders Could Shuffle in House

 

Democrats are expected to hold their leadership elections sometime after Thanksgiving. 

The following is a list of members who have either said they’re considering running for leadership or have left open the possibility that they might. It will be updated on a rolling basis.

Nancy Pelosi 

The first female speaker said she intends to seek the gavel again if Democrats retake the House in November. 

“We will win. I will run for speaker. I feel confident about it. And my members do, too,” the California Democrat said during a Boston Globe editorial meeting May 1

Pelosi, who has been minority leader since 2011 and the top-ranking House Democrat since 2003, has not indicated what she would do if Democrats fail to win the majority, choosing instead to project confidence that the midterm results will favor her party.

Steny H. Hoyer 

If Pelosi were to reconsider her decision to run for speaker or otherwise falter in that quest, Hoyer will undoubtedly run to succeed her.

“Of course, you know that,” the Maryland Democrat said in an April interview. “The fact of the matter is we’re focused, as you know, on taking back the majority. … I think we’re going to take back the majority, then we’ll worry about what we’re going to do with it — see what everybody’s doing.”

Behind the scenes, Hoyer has been pitching himself as someone who could serve as a “bridge” speaker, helping the caucus transition to a new generation of leaders.

While Hoyer is not expected to challenge Pelosi, he did not explicitly rule it out when asked during that same April interview. Instead, he dodged the question, saying, “We’re focused on winning back the majority.”

If Hoyer doesn’t run for speaker, he is expected to run for majority leader.

James E. Clyburn 

The assistant Democratic leader is also considered a potential candidate for speaker should for some reason it not be Pelosi. Some members of the Congressional Black Caucus have approached the South Carolina Democrat recently, saying he could be a bridge speaker.

Clyburn has suggested he is open to that, although he’s said he definitely would not challenge Pelosi. 

“I’m hoping to do anything the Congressional Black Caucus thinks is in the best interest of the caucus,” he said July 11. 

If Clyburn doesn’t run for speaker, he would probably run for majority whip, unless he decided to challenge Hoyer for the No. 2 spot.

Tim Ryan

The Ohio Democrat ran against Pelosi for caucus leader in 2016 and is considering challenging her again, potentially this time for speaker. 

“I think there are a lot of people talking now, a lot of people thinking about it, which, you know, I’m one of them,” Ryan said in an interview July 10.

Ryan had previously said he would not challenge Pelosi again but said he has reconsidered since Crowley’s loss. 

“A lot of us who were friends with him thought that he had a lot of support moving forward,” he said.

“The people are clamoring for new leadership, and we need it,” Ryan added. “And so I think it’s important that we give them it, we give them what they want.”

Linda T. Sánchez 

The current vice chairwoman of the Democratic Caucus became the first member to announce a leadership campaign when she sent a dear colleague letter July 17 announcing her intention to run to replace Crowley next year as caucus chair.   

“If the American people instill their trust in House Democrats, we must show them that we are ready to lead on the first day,” she said in the letter. “A new Congress gives us the opportunity to take a full assessment of what changes we need to make to ensure our success going forward. However, it is clear that if we wait until next year to have these discussions it will be too late. We must prepare now.”

Barbara Lee 

The California Democrat officially entered the caucus chair race on July 23

“As your Caucus Chair, I will ensure that we hear every view, respect every member, and welcome every voice,” Lee said in a dear colleague letter.

Lee ran against Sánchez for vice chair in 2016 and lost by two votes, but the membership of the caucus will be somewhat different with dozens of freshmen expected to be elected from Democratic leaning districts.

Eric Swalwell

Swalwell is the third California Democrat potentially interested in running for caucus chair. He told the Los Angles Times that is something he would consider after November

“Those are decisions I hope to be able to make in the majority,” said Swalwell, who currently co-chairs the Democratic Steering and Policy Committee that doles out committee assignments. The Steering co-chairs have traditionally been nominated by the Democratic leader, with the full caucus then affirming the choice.

Ben Ray Luján 

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee chairman is the member with the most visible role in trying to help Democrats retake the House, so if they’re successful, he will be in a good position to move up the ranks.

The New Mexico Democrat said colleagues have encouraged him to remain involved in leadership next year but he avoided questions about specific positions he might be interested in.

“We’re all open to seeing how we can be open to being part of a strong majority if we’re fortunate enough to be in that position,” Luján said July 11.

Adam B. Schiff

The House Intelligence ranking member said he “certainly” would be interested in being chairman of that panel if Democrats retake the majority, but he seemed to leave the door open to other possibilities as well. 

“I’m a team player,” the California Democrat said July 11. “And right now, I think all of us should be spending more time making sure this is not an academic discussion.”

Typically, leaders in the top posts give up their committee posts to focus on their leadership duties. Both committee and leadership posts involve fundraising and some travel to help get others elected.

“I want to be in the majority, and so I’m traveling the country, doing everything I can to help our candidates and don’t think too much beyond that,” Schiff said. 

Cheri Bustos 

The Illinois Democrat wouldn’t say whether she plans to run for anything, but she did note the importance of having geographic diversity in leadership. 

Bustos, one of the three DPCC co-chairs, pointed out that she’s the only member of leadership now who is from the Midwest and from a district President Donald Trump carried.

“Where we need more Democrats is in these districts that are a little tougher to navigate,” she said June 27. “I think it’s very important that we don’t lose sight of that.”

Hakeem Jeffries 

Jeffries, another DPCC co-chair, is more focused on midterm messaging but acknowledged that some colleagues have approached him to talk about running for leadership. 

“I think there are several of us who have been engaged in conversations, and certainly people have reached out to me and others just to talk generally about the future of the House Democratic Caucus,” the New York Democrat said July 11.

At the time Jeffries said there was no specific position he was eyeing, but he told Politico on July 19 that he’s looking closely at the caucus chair race. 

David Cicilline

The other DPCC co-chair is not ruling anything out either.

“I’d love the opportunity to continue to serve in leadership,” Cicilline said. “That will be a decision of my colleagues. But none of that will matter if we’re not in the majority.”

The Rhode Island Democrat declined to say what position he may be interested in.

Cedric L. Richmond

The Congressional Black Caucus chairman isn’t ruling anything out but said he has no interest in talking about leadership races now.

“The fact that Dems are talking about leadership is just premature, and it means that we’re not talking about the issues that matter so we can get to 218,” the Louisiana Democrat said July 11. 

“Does everybody and their grandmother want to be in leadership? Probably,” Richmond added. “But the question is would everybody pursue it. I don’t know. Right now it’s just not a priority.”

Mark Pocan

The Congressional Progressive Caucus co-chairman said it’s important progressives be more represented in leadership next year, and he has not ruled out running for something himself. 

“I think we’re going to talk to lots of progressives to see who has interest,” the Wisconsin Democrat said June 27.

Joyce Beatty

The Ohio Democrat said people have asked her what she wants to do and she has not defined anything or closed any doors.

“If we take back [the House], there will be a lot of room for leadership,” Beatty said July 13. “And I’m not saying ‘no’ or ‘yes’ at this time. I’m honored that colleagues and people have thought about me.”

Beatty said she is not currently looking at any specific positions, but she said she would not run for the top two positions, nor would she run against Lee if she runs for caucus chair. 

“What I can tell you is we will be lockstep as a Congressional Black Caucus in all our votes,” she said.

Diana DeGette

The Colorado Democrat is considering running for whip, and according to National Journal, she has begun asking her colleagues for support in that quest.

DeGette declined to comment for the Journal story, saying only that she was focused on winning the House in November. She is one of the Democrats’ chief deputy whips, an appointed position. 

Katherine Clark

The Massachusetts Democrat has expressed interest interested in running for leadership, according to two members who have talked to her about it. 

“I’m a myopic person at this point, which is we’ve got to win the House in November ... so my focus and energy is going to remain there, but I am flattered and looking to the future open to discussing it after we win the majority,” Clark said July 17.

ICYMI: Pelosi Praises Crowley and His Concession Following Primary Defeat

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