If House leaders change, black Dems want 1 of 2 top posts
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WASHINGTON — The Congressional Black Caucus served notice Thursday that the influential group wants a black lawmaker to hold at least one of the House’s two top Democratic jobs next year if Nancy Pelosi or other party leaders don’t retain their posts in the new Congress.
Caucus Chairman Rep. Cedric Richmond, D-La., wrote colleagues that despite the party’s “celebration of diversity,” a black lawmaker has never held one of the two top jobs. “It’s time we walk our talk,” he added in letter obtained by The Associated Press.
The effort is an example of behind-the-scenes jockeying already under way to fill the party’s top jobs in the Congress that convenes in January. Many in both parties believe Democrats will likely gain the 23 seats they will need to win House control in Tuesday’s elections.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., wants to reclaim the job of speaker she held when Democrats last controlled the chamber from 2007 through 2010. She has strong support among liberal and female Democratic lawmakers and is believed to have a solid shot at winning the job, for which she will need at least 218 votes, a House majority.
Yet it is unclear if she will be able to do so. Many Democrats say it is time for fresh faces to replace Pelosi and other party leaders, who are all in their late 70s, and say GOP efforts to demonize her as an out-of-touch liberal have made her a liability for the party.
It is widely believed that if Republicans retain their hold on the House, frustrated Democrats would replace Pelosi, No. 2 leader Steny Hoyer of Maryland and No. 3 leader Jim Clyburn of South Carolina.
The caucus’ letter does not name who it wants to see move into the two top jobs.
Clyburn is black and has expressed an interest in moving up, according to many Democrats speaking on condition of anonymity to describe private discussions. Richmond and Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, D-N.Y., are also mentioned as potential candidates for top jobs.
More than 40 of the current 193 House Democrats are members of the caucus. Both figures are likely to grow in next year’s Congress.
Some Democratic challengers who are likely to win their races have publicly said they would not vote for Pelosi to become speaker. That, along with disgruntled incumbents, might be enough to topple her if the Democratic victory margin is slender.
Spokesmen for Pelosi and Jeffries declined to comment on the letter. Aides to Clyburn and the black caucus did not immediately return phone calls and emails seeking comment.