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Clyburn Will Run for Caucus Chair

Rep. James Clyburn (S.C.) on Wednesday confirmed he plans to run for Democratic Caucus chairman in 2006, while Rep. Hilda Solis (Calif.) said she is weighing whether to join the growing race for the vice chairmanship.

Clyburn, who has served as Caucus vice chairman since 2003, said he has had many conversations with his colleagues about a future bid for the top Caucus job. He said he will formalize his campaign in the coming months, when it becomes clear at what date Rep. Bob Menendez (N.J.) will vacate the post.

“I am running for chair,” Clyburn said. “I’m hopeful that all the supporters of the three vice chair candidates or anyone who announces in the future will look upon my candidacy favorably.”

Clyburn said he believes he is deserving of the Caucus chairmanship and will continue to prove his worth in the next two years. Clyburn would succeed Menendez, who is prevented by term limits from seeking another term in 2006, but may vacate the post sooner to accept appointment to the Senate.

Clyburn, who is unlikely to face serious opposition, said because the chairmanship race could be nearly two years away, he doesn’t feel pressure to launch his campaign in earnest.

“Whenever there is a vacancy, I’m going to seek it,” Clyburn said.

In the meantime, the campaign to be the next vice Caucus chairman continues to heat up.

Solis on Wednesday wouldn’t rule out jumping in the race, saying: “It sounds very enticing.” But the Californian was quick to add that she hasn’t had time to fully vet the idea and isn’t ready to make a decision.

Several members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus are privately hoping Solis will run so they can try to keep their representation in leadership. If Menendez leaves, the CHC would lack a leadership slot.

“I would hope we have balanced representation in the Caucus,” Solis said, but added: “I can’t say I’m going to move on this right now.”

Already in the hunt are Reps. Joe Crowley (N.Y.), John Larson (Conn.) and Jan Schakowsky (Ill.). Larson, the most recent entrant, said Wednesday he is putting together his team of supporters and expects broad support for his campaign.

He acknowledged the race for vice chairman has begun earlier than many expected, saying: “Once the genie’s out of the bottle, if he hesitates, he has lost.”

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