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From Speaker on Down, Here’s Who’s in the Hill Leadership Hunt

House and Senate Republican conferences set to vote this week

The race to lead the House Republicans next Congress comes down to California’s Kevin McCarthy, center, and Ohio’s Jim Jordan, right, who face off in a Wednesday GOP caucus vote. Also pictured above, Rep. Mark Meadows, R-N.C. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)
The race to lead the House Republicans next Congress comes down to California’s Kevin McCarthy, center, and Ohio’s Jim Jordan, right, who face off in a Wednesday GOP caucus vote. Also pictured above, Rep. Mark Meadows, R-N.C. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Updated Tuesday, 3:44 p.m. | With the midterms — mostly — behind us, attention has shifted to the intraparty leadership elections on Capitol Hill for the House and Senate. 

Here’s a look at the various positions that members of both parties and chambers will be voting on in the coming weeks. 

House Democrats

Democrats gain an extra leadership position after taking over the majority. The caucus is expected to hold its elections November 28.

While all eyes will be on the race for speaker and whether any Democrat will step up to challenge Nancy Pelosi, other positions in the House Democratic leadership roster will also see contested races. 


Nancy Pelosi of California is so far the only Democrat to have announced a bid for speaker. She served as speaker for two terms from 2007 to 2011 when Democrats last controlled the House.

Watch: New Members Could Spell Trouble for Pelosi’s Speaker Bid

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Majority Leader

Steny H. Hoyer of Maryland is seeking a return to the position he relinquished after Democrats lost their majority in 2010. No one is challenging him as yet for the No. 2 slot.

Majority Whip

With Hoyer, the current minority whip, expected to run for House majority leader, there’s currently a two-way fight for majority whip, the No. 3 position.

  • James E. Clyburn of South Carolina held the position the last time Democrats controlled the House. He is currently the assistant Democratic leader. 
  • Diana DeGette of Colorado announced a bid the day after the elections. She currently serves as a chief deputy whip, an appointed position.

Assistant Democratic Leader

Pelosi created this position for Clyburn in 2011 after Democrats lost their House majority. It was initially an appointed position, but the caucus voted in 2016 to make it an elected post. Two candidates are running for the No. 4 position in the first contested election for assistant leader.

  • David Cicilline of Rhode Island, a co-chair of the Democratic Policy and Communications Committee, which helps shape the caucus’s midterm messaging. 
  • Ben Ray Luján of New Mexico, the outgoing chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, who is coming off a banner election for his party.

Democratic Caucus Chair

The current chairman, New York Rep. Joseph Crowley, is not returning after losing in a Democratic primary in June. Two candidates from the Congressional Black Caucus are running to succeed him. 

  • Barbara Lee of California, who ran for caucus vice chairwoman two years ago and lost by two votes. 
  • Hakeem Jeffries of New York, who is currently one of three co-chairs of the DPCC. 

Democratic Caucus Vice Chair

The current occupant, California Rep. Linda T. Sánchez, was expected to run for caucus chair. But she pulled out of the race Thursday after her husband was indicted for theft of federal funds. Two Democrats are seeking to replace her as vice chair. 

  • Katherine M. Clark of Massachusetts, a member of the Congressional Progressive Caucus and recruitment vice chairwoman for the DCCC. 
  • Pete Aguilar of California, a member of the New Democrat Coalition and a whip for the Congressional Hispanic Caucus. 

Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chair

With current chairman Luján running for assistant leader, the role of heading up the Democrats’ campaign arm has so far attracted four lawmakers. The DCCC chairmanship has only been an elected position since the 2016; prior to that, the Democratic leader appointed the chair. This is the first contested election to head the committee. 

Democratic Policy and Communications Committee Co-Chairs (Three positions)

The current DPCC co-chairs are all seeking other leadership positions. At least four candidates have so far declared bids to co-chair the committee that oversees the caucus’s messaging efforts. Until 2016, when the caucus voted to change the DPCC leadership to three elected co-chairs, there had been one chair appointed by the Democratic leader. 

Leadership position for junior member

Pelosi created this position in 2016 for lawmakers with five terms or less under their belts to have a seat at the leadership table. The representative is limited to one term so the incumbent, California Rep. Tony Cárdenas, cannot run again. Two members are running so far to replace him.

House Republicans

House Republicans will choose their leadership team for the next Congress on Wednesday, while the incoming freshmen are in town for the first week of orientation. Most of the races for the top leadership positions are solo affairs, but the caucus is set for a marquee contest for its No. 1 spot.  

Minority Leader

With outgoing Speaker Paul D. Ryan retiring and the GOP falling into the minority next Congress, Republicans face a two-way race for minority leader.

Minority Whip

Louisiana’s Steve Scalise, the current majority whip, is running unopposed for the No. 2 position in House Republican leadership.

Republican Conference Chair

Wyoming Rep. Liz Cheney launched a bid to chair the Republican Conference last week, citing the need to “fundamentally overhaul” its messaging operation. 

She had been expected to face off against the current chairwoman, Cathy McMorris Rodgers, but the Washington lawmaker has since decided against re-election and will instead seek a ranking member subcommittee spot on the Energy and Commerce panel.

Republican Conference Vice Chair

North Carolina Rep. Mark Walker is running unopposed to succeed Georgia Rep. Doug Collins, who is seeking the ranking member position on the Judiciary Committee. 

Republican Conference Secretary

Missouri Rep. Jason Smith is running for the position again and does not appear to have any competition. 

National Republican Congressional Committee Chair

The current chairman, Ohio Rep. Steve Stivers, is not seeking a second term heading up the House Republicans’ campaign arm after the party’s losses last week. Minnesota Rep. Tom Emmer, currently one of two NRCC deputy chairs, is running to succeed Stivers.

Rep. Mimi Walters, the other deputy chair, has thrown her support behind Emmer. She had wanted to run but is unlikely to know whether she’s won re-election to her Southern California seat before Wednesday’s leadership election. Walters currently clings to a slim lead in her race against Democrat Katie Porter, which is yet to be called by the AP with thousands of ballots still left to count. 

Reps. Roger Williams of Texas and Rodney Davis of Illinois had also expressed openness to run for the position but have not formally announced plans to do so.

Republican Policy Committee Chair

The current holder, Indiana’s Luke Messer, won’t be returning to Congress next year after an unsuccessful run for Senate. Two Freedom Caucus members are running to succeed him.

Senate Republicans

Senate Republicans, who are almost certainly looking at an expanded majority next year, will choose their leadership team for the next Congress on Wednesday. Only one of the positions is expected to be contested. 

Majority Leader

Kentucky’s Mitch McConnell is expected to continue leading his conference, as he enters his fifth year as majority leader. It’s the only Senate GOP leadership position not subject to term limits.

Majority Whip

After three terms as majority whip, Texas Sen. John Cornyn is stepping down. Senate GOP rules impose a three-term limit on leadership positions. Current Conference Chairman John Thune is expected to run unopposed to succeed him.

Republican Conference Chair

With Thune moving up the ladder, Sen. John Barrasso of Wyoming, the current policy committee chairman, is expected to take his place. 

Republican Policy Committee Chair

Missouri’s Roy Blunt, who currently serves as the conference vice chairman, is set to move into the top spot on the policy committee, which produces policy briefs and research for GOP offices. Blunt previously served as majority and minority whip over a long tenure in the House before his election to the Senate in 2010.

Republican Conference Vice Chair

This is currently the only contested position in Senate GOP leadership. Iowa’s Joni Ernst and Nebraska’s Deb Fischer are running to succeed Blunt. The winner will be the first woman to join the Senate Republicans’ top leadership ranks since Alaska’s Lisa Murkowski stepped down as vice chairwoman after losing a GOP primary in 2010. (She was later re-elected as a write-in candidate.)

Fischer is coming off a successful re-election last week, when she beat back a Democratic challenge by a commanding 20 points. Ernst could face a competitive re-election in two years time as she goes for a second term. 

National Republican Senatorial Committee Chair

Current Chairman Cory Gardner is not seeking to lead the Senate GOP’s campaign arm again. The Colorado Republican potentially faces a tough re-election in 2020. 

Indiana’s Todd Young is currently running unopposed for the spot. He told the AP that McConnell supports his bid. Republicans will likely be defending 22 Senate seats next cycle (assuming Mississippi’s Cindy Hyde-Smith wins her runoff later this month).

Senate Democrats

Senate Democrats aren’t expected to see much change to their leadership team in their elections, likely taking place this week.

The position to chair the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee — not an elected one — could open up, with Politico reporting earlier this month that senators were eyeing Nevada Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto to succeed Maryland’s Chris Van Hollen.

Senate Democrats are coming off an election cycle that saw them lose at least three seats while picking up at least one. Two races are currently uncalled — Florida, where Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson trails Republican Rick Scott ahead of a recount; and Arizona, where Democrat Kyrsten Sinema holds a narrow, but growing, lead over Republican Martha McSally. Democrat Mike Espy made the Nov. 27 Senate special election runoff in Mississippi, but is not favored to win.

Here is the current elected leadership roster:

Correction 11:19 a.m. | An earlier version of this story misidentified the last woman to hold a top leadership position in the Senate Republican Conference. It was Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski

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