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Vice Chair Hopefuls Continue to Joust for Edge

Rep. Jan Schakowsky (Ill.) on Tuesday served notice that she had closed the gap in the Democratic Caucus vice chairmanship race, announcing the addition of 13 new supporters to her organization

Her move prompted her top opponent in the contest, Rep. Joe Crowley (N.Y.), to expand his team just enough to retake a narrow lead in a contest that will likely continue to play out for several months.

Schakowsky increased her whip team to a total of 38 Members, including the notable addition of Appropriations ranking member David Obey (Wis.). Crowley responded to Schakowsky’s rollout by going public with three new backers of his own, increasing his overall support to 40 Members.

Crowley and Schakowsky appear to have the early edge in the three-person race for vice chairman, as the third candidate, Rep. John Larson (Conn.), has yet to reveal his public support beyond his three-Member campaign team. Larson’s office has said he will announce an extension of his organization in the coming days.

The three Democrats are all vying to succeed Caucus Vice Chairman James Clyburn (S.C.), who is prevented from seeking a third term and has designs on the Caucus chairmanship.

With Schakowsky’s Tuesday announcement, the four-term Democrat attempted to show her Caucus backing reaches beyond her current emphasis on women, Midwesterners and the progressive wing of the party.

While her support remains deepest in those areas, she added new support from each coast, several minority Members, a moderate woman and a former chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. She said she was particularly honored to win the support of Obey, whom she called “one of the most respected Members of our Caucus” who “lends special weight” to the campaign.

Schakowsky also named California Reps. Barbara Lee and Bob Filner, as well as Reps. Donald Payne (N.J.), Patrick Kennedy (R.I.), Shelley Berkley (Nev.), Lloyd Doggett (Texas), Jim McDermott (Wash.), Corrine Brown (Fla.) and Dale Kildee (Mich.), and Del. Donna Christian-Christensen (V.I.). She also tapped Rep. Hilda Solis (Calif.), who herself entertained a bid for the vice chairman position but opted against it.

“It is a very diverse list,” Schakowsky said. “With the release of these names, I think it will begin to attract more people from these various groups within the Caucus. These are very strong additions to the already strong list of 25 Members.”

Schakowsky said she couldn’t speak to the other candidates’ campaigns, but she characterized her race as a positive one with “room for expansion.” She said she expects to broaden her support among moderate Members as her campaign moves ahead, noting that she has demonstrated her ability and willingness to further unify the Democratic Caucus.

Crowley also worked to expand his breadth of support Tuesday, adding to his team veteran Rep. Tom Lantos (Calif.), the ranking member on International Relations, and two Missourians and Congressional Black Caucus members, Reps. Emanuel Cleaver and William Lacy Clay.

Crowley called Cleaver and Clay “two dynamic and respected” members of the CBC and Lantos “a true conscience of this Congress.” Crowley’s largest base of support so far is his home state and neighboring region, as well as moderate and conservative Members.

“I am proud of my broad-based support throughout the Caucus from all parts of our country,” Crowley said.

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