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Barbara Lee Formally Gets In Democratic Caucus Chair Race

Lee will face off against fellow California Democrat Linda Sánchez

Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Calif., is running for Democratic Caucus chair. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)
Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Calif., is running for Democratic Caucus chair. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Rep. Barbara Lee on Monday officially declared her candidacy for Democratic Caucus chair, setting up the first of what could be many competitive leadership races for next Congress.

Lee will face off against fellow California Democrat Linda Sánchez, who announced her bid for Democratic Caucus chair Tuesday.

The two previously competed in 2016 for caucus vice chair, with Sánchez winning that race by just two votes. The caucus membership composition will be different after the midterms, creating a semi-new playing field for Lee and Sánchez to battle it out again.

But they may not be competing against just one another. Others may still enter the race before Democrats hold their leadership elections sometime after Thanksgiving. Reps. Eric Swalwell of California and Hakeem Jeffries of New York have both expressed interest in the caucus chair role since Joseph Crowley, the post’s current occupant, lost his primary last month.

Lee announced her bid in a Dear Colleague letter in which she told her fellow Democrats she’s “inspired” to fight alongside them to win back the majority as “there is nothing more important than returning bold Democratic leadership to Congress.”

In an early preview of her campaign arguments, Lee cited “three deeply held beliefs.”

The first, she said, is that the caucus’s strength lies in its diversity of experiences and ideas. 

“Whether it’s working across the aisle to enact HIV/AIDS laws, or bringing the [Bernie] Sanders and [Hillary] Clinton campaigns together behind a cohesive and progressive Democratic Platform, my career has been dedicated to finding common ground and delivering results. … As your Caucus Chair, I will ensure that we hear every view, respect every member, and welcome every voice,” Lee wrote.

Secondly, she noted the caucus is at its best when everyone contributes and collaborates and said her top priority will be offering new ways to engage all members. 

Lastly, Lee noted the caucus has the talent and vision to improve people’s lives and promised to shed light on those strengths and promote an agenda that reflects the caucus’s collective vision.

“I look forward to listening to your ideas, answering your questions and working to earn your vote,“ she concluded in her letter. “By putting people first, we will regain the majority and strengthen it for the future. It is an honor to fight this battle together.”

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