Democrats grum­ble about lead­ers, but still stay on side­lines.

But no law­mak­ers have chal­lenged Pelosi, Hoyer for top House po­si­tions

The Washington Times Daily - - FRONT PAGE - BY DAVID SHERFINSKI

Some House Democrats are grum­bling over the party’s lead­er­ship, sug­gest­ing it’s too old and stag­nant in an era when women and mi­nori­ties are car­ry­ing the party.

No­body has stepped for­ward yet to chal­lenge Demo­cratic Leader Nancy Pelosi for speaker in the new Congress, nor are there any chal­lengers for Rep. Steny H. Hoyer, who’s in line to be­come ma­jor­ity leader.

But Rep. James Cly­burn, run­ning for the thir­drank­ing whip po­si­tion, does face a chal­lenge from Rep. Di­ana DeGette, who said women need a more prom­i­nent role at the party’s top.

The prob­lem is she’s gun­ning for Mr. Cly­burn, who is black, at a time when black Democrats say they need more power within the lead­er­ship and in Congress. Both Mrs. Pelosi and Mr. Hoyer, as well as Ms. DeGette, are white.

Rep. Cedric Rich­mond, chair­man of the Con­gres­sional Black Cau­cus, said in a re­cent let­ter to col­leagues that he ap­plauds the cur­rent lead­er­ship team’s ef­forts to push the party agenda.

“How­ever, our cel­e­bra­tion of di­ver­sity as a strate­gic im­per­a­tive and strength of the Demo­cratic Party and the ap­pli­ca­tion of eq­ui­table value to the roles that CBC mem­bers play in our cau­cus’s ef­fort re­main in­con­sis­tent with our most pow­er­ful lead­er­ship roles,” he said.

Part of the prob­lem is that the party’s top lead­er­ship has been un­changed for years.

Mrs. Pelosi has served as their chief since 2002, and Mr. Hoyer has been her top lieu­tenant since then. Mr. Cly­burn be­came the No. 3 Demo­crat in 2006. When the party lost the ma­jor­ity in the House af­ter the 2010 elec­tion, it cre­ated a new po­si­tion to keep the tri­umvi­rate in­tact.

Now there’s a move afoot to turn to a new gen­er­a­tion of lead­ers.

Rep. Tim Ryan of Ohio, who mounted a heart­land pop­ulist-style chal­lenge to Mrs. Pelosi two years ago, says he doesn’t in­tend to run again, but said he’d like to see a bat­tle.

“I think ask­ing new mem­bers who just cam­paigned for new lead­er­ship to come in and cast a vote for the sta­tus quo — that’s not why they got elected and I think that jeop­ar­dizes the fu­ture of our ma­jor­ity go­ing into 2020,” Mr. Ryan said on MSNBC.

Mrs. Pelosi for­mally launched her bid for speaker this week, writ­ing per­son­al­ized let­ters to re­turn­ing Democrats and newly elected can­di­dates who will de­cide her fate. But she’ll have to win over at least some of the dozens who ei­ther told their con­stituents they would op­pose Mrs. Pelosi or who re­fused to com­mit pub­licly one way or an­other.

As the first woman to win the speak­er­ship, in 2007, she’s al­ready made his­tory, and no less than Pres­i­dent Trump says Mrs. Pelosi has earned the gavel back.

Yet, Mr. Rich­mond said in his let­ter ear­lier this month that CBC mem­bers wanted to see a black mem­ber in one of the top two House lead­er­ship po­si­tions. He later clar­i­fied to CNN that would ap­ply only if a va­cancy arose, and that the cau­cus could get be­hind the con­tin­ued Pelosi-Hoyer-Cly­burn lead­er­ship team.

Rep. Ha­keem Jef­fries, who some have hoped could be the first black House speaker, on Thurs­day an­nounced he’ll run for House Demo­cratic cau­cus chair, a lower post.

“Our racial, re­li­gious, gen­der, ide­o­log­i­cal, sex­ual ori­en­ta­tion and re­gional di­ver­sity is a great strength,” the New York Demo­crat said in a let­ter to col­leagues. “How­ever, it can only be un­leashed if com­mit­tees are fully em­pow­ered to work their will and a panoply of per­spec­tives, ex­pe­ri­ences and ideas are em­braced and har­mo­nized.”

Rep. Linda Sanchez had said she would run for cau­cus chair, but abruptly with­drew her name from con­sid­er­a­tion Thurs­day, cit­ing an “un­ex­pected fam­ily mat­ter.” Her hus­band, James Sul­li­van, was one of five in­di­vid­u­als in­dicted this week on con­spir­acy and theft charges tied to a pub­lic en­ergy com­pany in Con­necti­cut that has re­ceived fed­eral fund­ing.

A fed­eral grand jury in New Haven re­turned the in­dict­ments Tues­day — Elec­tion Day — and the five de­fen­dants pleaded not guilty Thurs­day.

For the mo­ment, that leaves Mr. Rich­mond and Rep. Bar­bara Lee of Cal­i­for­nia, an­other black mem­ber, as the two con­tenders.

In an­nounc­ing her chal­lenge to Mr. Cly­burn, Ms. DeGette said Democrats’ re­turn to the ma­jor­ity was pow­ered by women vot­ers “and we need to re­pay their trust by adding women to Democrats’ lead­er­ship team.”

“As we add even more women to our ranks in Congress — largely be­cause of Demo­cratic can­di­dates — our cau­cus should re­flect this strength, in­clud­ing at the lead­er­ship ta­ble,” she said in a let­ter to her col­leagues.

Rep. Suzan DelBene, Wash­ing­ton Demo­crat, also pointed to the party’s win­ning coali­tion this year when she told col­leagues this week that she will run to be the next chair­woman of the Demo­cratic Con­gres­sional Cam­paign Com­mit­tee (DCCC), House Democrats’ cam­paign arm.

“Democrats have won back the House with the sup­port of women, peo­ple of color, and the LGBTQ com­mu­nity,” Ms. DelBene wrote. “These Amer­i­cans are un­der at­tack by Pres­i­dent Trump and his al­lies, and Democrats must em­power them.”

But GOP Rep. Bar­bara Com­stock of Vir­ginia, who lost to Demo­crat Jen­nifer Wex­ton on Tues­day, said Democrats rou­tinely play iden­tity pol­i­tics with the can­di­dates they try to bring down as well, say­ing sex­ism has played a role in her sta­tus as a peren­nial top tar­get for Democrats.

“Look at who the Democrats tar­get,” she said in an in­ter­view last week. “They tar­get women and mi­nor­ity Repub­li­cans be­cause we end up hav­ing dif­fer­ent faces for the party.”

Be­yond her­self, Ms. Com­stock named Reps. Mia Love of Utah and Car­los Curbelo of Flor­ida — both of whom lost Tues­day — as a few of Democrats’ top tar­gets this cy­cle. Ms. Love is the only fe­male Repub­li­can mem­ber of the Con­gres­sional Black Cau­cus. Mr. Curbelo, mean­while, is His­panic — but Democrats in the Con­gres­sional His­panic Cau­cus re­fused to ad­mit him last year.

AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS PHO­TO­GRAPHS

No­body has stepped for­ward to chal­lenge Rep. Nancy Pelosi (right) for speaker in the new Congress, nor are there any chal­lengers for Rep. Steny H. Hoyer, (sec­ond from right) who’s in line to be­come the ma­jor­ity leader. But Rep. James Cly­burn, (sec­ond from left) who’s run­ning for whip, has been chal­lenged by Rep. Di­ana DeGette.

Rep. Di­ana DeGette is chal­leng­ing Rep. James Cly­burn for whip. She said women need a more prom­i­nent role at the top of the Demo­cratic Party.

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