Honda Backed for Slot at DNC

Posted January 26, 2005 at 6:44pm

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (Calif.) waded into the race for Democratic National Committee vice chairman Wednesday, signing a letter backing Rep. Mike Honda (Calif.) for the post over another House Democrat.

The missive, signed by 18 members of the California Democratic delegation, calls Honda a “shining star” and points out that he is the only Californian in the race and the only “Western Regional candidate.”

Honda also received the endorsement of the vast majority of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus on Wednesday with the notable exception of Democratic Caucus Chairman Bob Menendez (N.J.), who plans to stay neutral.

“We in the CHC are fortunate to have developed a special relationship with Mike, and we are impressed by Mike’s own long and special relationship with the Hispanic community,” wrote the Members.

Honda is not the only Member of Congress in the race; New York Rep. Greg Meeks is also seeking the slot.

In addition to Honda and Meeks, former Puerto Rico Secretary of State Alvaro Cifuentes, DNC Deputy Chairman Ben Johnson, and Nelson Diaz, who is also Puerto Rican, are running.

Even with two Members involved, the contest has been almost entirely overshadowed by the heated DNC chairman race that is being cast as crucial to the future of the Democratic Party.

The leading contenders in that race appear to be former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean and former Texas Rep. Martin Frost.

House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (Md.) has endorsed Frost, though no other members of either House or Senate leadership have formally backed a candidate.

Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (Nev.) urged former Indiana Rep. Tim Roemer to make the race but insist that the move did not constitute a formal endorsement.

Both positions will be filled during the DNC’s winter meeting in Washington, D.C., on Feb. 10-12.

Under DNC bylaws, there are five vice chairman slots available in addition to the chairmanship. There must be an even number of men and women in the posts.

Given that no woman is in the running for chair and the fact that Association of Democratic State Chairs President Mark Brewer is guaranteed a seat, that leaves only one other seat for a male. Traditionally, that final seat is filled by a Latino or African-American, according to a knowledgeable party source.

That seat is the one Honda, Meeks and the three other candidates are hoping to win.

Honda, first elected to a San Jose-area open seat in 2000, served as a deputy chairman at the DNC during the 2004 campaign.

In that capacity, Honda said he “put together a model to work with Asian-American communities” that raised more than $5 million for the DNC. The effort was formally known as the Asian Pacific Islander American outreach program.

Honda, a Japanese American, said his interest in serving as vice chairman is based on the work he began in the previous cycle.

“I would be in a position at the DNC to work with the chair to develop an organization to address local constituencies and percolate it up to the national level,” said Honda.

Meeks was elected in a February 1998 special election to a district centered in Queens.

Following the 2002 election he campaigned to be vice chairman of the Democratic Caucus but came up 39 votes short of South Carolina Rep. James Clyburn on the first ballot. He did not seek a second ballot.

John Bresnahan contributed to this report.