US Rep. Barbara Lee to run for House Democratic Caucus chair

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U.S. Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Oakland, announced her bid for House Democratic Caucus chair Monday.

Lee will be running against the current vice chair, U.S. Rep. Linda Sánchez, D-California, who announced her bid on July 17. Lee, who has been serving in the House of Representatives since 1998, said in a press release that she would try to increase the diversity of ideas and experience on the caucus.

According to the House of Representatives website, the caucus’s responsibilities include electing party leaders, such as the next caucus chair, and discussing party policies. The caucus chair’s responsibility is to preside over meetings, and the chair is limited to two consecutive full terms.

The current caucus chair is Rep. Joe Crowley, D-New York, who was defeated in the June primaries by Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. Ocasio-Cortez will go against Republican candidate Anthony Pappas for the seat in the November elections.

Lee would be the first Black woman and Sánchez the first Latinx woman to be elected to the position of caucus chair.

“I have a good relationship with Barbara Lee,” Sánchez said in an email. “We have worked together many times over the years on our shared progressive priorities. … We both ran in a hard fought race for Caucus Vice Chair. I am proud of the respectful way we campaigned.”

Both caucus chair candidates also hold degrees from UC Berkeley — Sánchez received a bachelor’s degree in Spanish literature in 1991, and Lee earned a master’s degree in social work in 1975.

Lee is running on three “deeply held beliefs” she feels the caucus aligns with: the caucus’s strength in diverse experiences, the caucus’s talent and vision to improve everybody’s lives, and the caucus’s ability to give everyone an opportunity to contribute and collaborate.

“Whether it’s working across the aisle to enact HIV/AIDS laws, or bringing the Sanders and Clinton campaigns together behind a cohesive and progressive Democratic Platform, my career has been dedicated to finding common ground and delivering results,” Lee said in the press release.

Lee is famous for being the sole “nay” vote against the bill “To authorize the use of United States Armed Forces against those responsible for the recent attacks launched against the United States” on Sept. 14, 2001.

Lee noted in the press release that “there is nothing more important than returning bold Democratic leadership to Congress.”

Cal Berkeley Democrats, the campus’s largest Democratic student organization, has not yet made a formal endorsement of any caucus chair candidate, according to Varsha Sarveshwar, the organization’s president.

“While we have not yet made a formal endorsement in this race, Cal Berkeley Democrats is incredibly proud to call Congresswoman Lee our representative,” Sarveshwar said in an email. “We regularly communicate with her office, and she or her reps have attended and spoken at many of our events.”

Contact Jan Schuermann at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter at @Jan_182.