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Norton, Larsen bid for top Democratic spot on Transportation Committee

The pair, seeking to succeed retiring Rep. DeFazio, are chairs of arguably the most powerful subcommittees on the panel

Reporters question Rep. Peter DeFazio, chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, in September. Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton and Rep. Rick Larsen are seeking to succeed DeFazio as the panel's top Democrat.
Reporters question Rep. Peter DeFazio, chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, in September. Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton and Rep. Rick Larsen are seeking to succeed DeFazio as the panel's top Democrat. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Less than a day after Rep. Peter A. DeFazio announced his plans to retire, two House Democrats have launched bids to replace the Oregonian as top Democrat on the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.

Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton, D-D.C., and Rep. Rick Larsen, D-Wash., both formally declared their candidacy for the top Democratic spot on the committee, with Norton announcing her bid hours after DeFazio’s retirement announcement Wednesday and Larsen formally announcing Thursday.

DeFazio is chairman of the panel. Norton and Larsen, along with Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson of Texas who is also retiring after this Congress, are the next most senior Democrats on the 66-member committee, which has jurisdiction over all modes of transportation as well as infrastructure including clean water and wastewater, pipelines, flood damage and federal real estate.

Both are chairs of arguably the most powerful subcommittees on the panel: Norton chairs the Highways and Transit Subcommittee, while Larsen chairs the Aviation Subcommittee.

While Norton announced her plans as part of a press statement thanking DeFazio for his service, Larsen made his intentions clear in a “Dear Colleague” letter Thursday.

“Serving on this Committee was my day one priority as a Member of Congress,” Larsen wrote. “As a former local elected official, I saw firsthand the importance of robust infrastructure to the quality of life of my constituents. That commitment and my interest in improving infrastructure has never wavered.”

Norton, 84, was first elected in 1991. Larsen, 56, was first elected in 2001.

They seek to replace DeFazio, a 36-year veteran of Congress who began chairing the committee in 2019 and  has served on the committee for the entirety of his congressional career.

Both seek to take the top Democratic position on the committee in the aftermath of the passage of a bipartisan infrastructure law that represents the most aggressive investment in infrastructure in decades.

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