California Rep. and longtime progressive champion Barbara Lee is officially running to become House Democratic Caucus chair, the fourth-highest position in the Democratic House leadership, she announced Monday. If elected, Lee will become the first black woman to hold a leadership spot in either major political party.
“Our caucus has the talent and the vision to improve the lives of all people,” Lee said in her announcement letter to her Democratic colleagues. “We must shine a light on our greatest strengths: our members, our Democratic energy and compassion, and the agenda that reflects our collective vision.”
Lee is most famous for being the only member of Congress, in either the House or the Senate, to vote against the authorization of military force after the 9/11 attacks. Her position, though criticized by at the time, also gained her a loyal following.
“When you look at the history of the Democratic Party and the Democratic leadership, African American women...we’ve been the backbone of the Democratic Party — we should be in the face of leadership also,’’ Lee told Politico in an interview Sunday.
Rep. Joe Crowley currently holds the caucus chair post, but his unexpected primary loss to Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has left the spot open.
The upset “signals that our base voters are very engaged and they want to see change,” Lee told the Mercury News in June. “People around the country, everywhere I go, are helping us elect more Democrats, progressives, women, people of color.”
Lee will face California Rep. Linda Sanchez for the position. In 2016, Sanchez beat Lee for a lower-ranking leadership slot by just two votes.