October 29, 2020

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House Democrats’ leadership races reflect coming generational change

Only one House Democrat in the caucus’s 14-member elected leadership team is exiting the chamber next year, but that opening has created a competitive race for assistant speaker and cleared opportunities for other ambitious Democrats to run for the lower-ranking positions those candidates are vacating.

With Assistant Speaker Ben Ray Luján running for the open Senate seat in New Mexico, three lawmakers — Tony Cárdenas of California, David Cicilline of Rhode Island and Katherine M. Clark of Massachusetts — are vying to replace him as the fourth-ranking House Democrat.

The top three leaders who have led the caucus for nearly two decades, Speaker Nancy Pelosi, 80, House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer, 81, and Majority Whip James E. Clyburn, 80, are expected to stay in those positions, according to several Democratic lawmakers and aides CQ Roll Call spoke with for this report.

The team forming below them represents the generational change many rank-and-file Democrats have long sought. All of the candidates running were first elected to the House in the past decade.

Pelosi has promised she wouldn’t serve as speaker beyond 2022, so whoever becomes assistant speaker is likely a potential candidate to replace her. Democratic Caucus Chairman Hakeem Jeffries, 50, first elected in 2012, is seeking reelection to the No. 5 leadership post unchallenged and is another potential speaker hopeful.

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