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Crowley Leaps to Front in Backing for Vice Chair Slot

As the horse race for the Democratic Caucus vice chairmanship heats up, Rep. Joe Crowley (N.Y.) last week expanded his whip operation by two Members and named five new supporters — putting him in the lead for the number of public endorsements.

Crowley, who now holds 37 public backers, is vying for the vice chairmanship against Reps. John Larson (Conn.), who so far has three Members on his team, and Jan Schakowsky (Ill.), who has claimed 25 supporters.

The current vice chairman, Rep. James Clyburn (S.C.), is running for Caucus chairman (he is prevented by term limits from seeking a third term in the vice chairman position). The job is up in 2006, but it could be available before then if a series of New Jersey political events prompt an early departure by Caucus Chairman Bob Menendez (N.J.).

Crowley said he promoted to his whip team Reps. Bart Gordon (Tenn.) and Lucille Roybal-Allard (Calif.), already public supporters. He also added five new Members to his supporter list: Reps. Bill Delahunt (Mass.), Paul Kanjorski (Pa.), Harold Ford Jr. (Tenn.) and Robert Wexler (Fla.) and Del. Eni Faleomavaega (American Samoa). He already claims every Democratic member of the New York delegation.

Crowley said Gordon and Roybal-Allard show his widespread appeal in the Caucus, noting that Gordon is a former party recruiter, a member of the powerful Energy and Commerce Committee, and hails from a red state, while Roybal-Allard comes from the West Coast, is a member of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus and an influential appropriator.

“I think it shows the wide breadth of support I have in the Caucus by elevating these two to senior positions,” Crowley said in an interview. “Our outreach transcends race, ethnicity, gender, geography and ideology.”

Crowley, a Chief Deputy Minority Whip, New Democrat and member of the Financial Services Committee, so far is seeing the bulk of his support from the New York delegation, moderate Members and Northeastern Democrats.

His move to announce more support follows last week’s rollout by Schakowsky of her 25-person whip team led by Illinois Rep. Jerry Costello. Larson so far has named his three-person whip team and has said he will expand his operation in the near future.

“I think it’s going to be a long race — a marathon instead of a sprint,” Crowley said. “We’ve been steady in our approach to this whole process. I think when the undecided see the breadth of our support, it will move folks down the road.”

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