Neguse seeks to head Democrats’ messaging arm, clearing Aguilar’s path to caucus chair

Rep. Joe Neguse (D-Colo.) launched a bid on Monday to lead the Democrats’ messaging arm in the next Congress, ending his pursuit of the caucus chairmanship and clearing the way for Rep. Pete Aguilar (D-Calif.) to fill that spot next year. 

Neguse, who is currently one of four co-chairs of the House Democratic Policy and Communications Committee (DPCC), is seeking to become the lone chairman of that panel next year — a new position the party is expected to create as part of the internal rules changes governing the 118th Congress.

The position was not his first choice. 

Neguse, whose star rose last year when he was named to the team leading the second impeachment of then-President Trump, had initially sought to replace Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (N.Y.) as head of the House Democratic Caucus, announcing his candidacy for that spot shortly after the Nov. 8 midterms. At that time, it was well known that Aguilar was eyeing the No. 3 assistant leader position, behind Jeffries and Rep. Katherine Clark (D-Mass.), if there was a post-election shake-up at the highest tiers of the party — a shake-up that materialized last week when Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) announced they were stepping out of leadership after two decades. 

But Neguse’s plan hit a wall when Rep. Jim Clyburn (S.C.), the Democratic whip, announced his intent to remain in leadership, launching a bid for the assistant leader spot. That surprise move led Aguilar to pursue the caucus chairman position — and forced Neguse to seek the DPCC seat.

The reshuffling of candidates was accompanied by an imminent restructuring of the party brass. The last time the Democrats were in the minority, the assistant leader was the No. 3 spot, and caucus chair was No. 4. Under the new order next year, those rankings will be flipped.

Pelosi all but solidified next year’s leadership team when she endorsed Jeffries, Clark and Aguilar for the top three spots. Neguse’s decision to seek the DPCC chair, and not challenge Aguilar for caucus chair, means that all of the top three candidates are so far running unopposed.  

In a letter sent Monday to fellow Democrats, Neguse, 38, a four-term veteran and member of the Congressional Black Caucus, said he’ll bring his experience representing a sprawling district outside Denver to help the party better convey its message to voters. 

“As a son of immigrants, the first Black Congressperson elected by the State of Colorado, and as someone who represents a large rural and suburban district, with agricultural communities extending all the way to the Wyoming border, I’ve long worked hard to effectively communicate to a broad constituency,” he wrote.

"I’ve adopted that same approach as a member of House Leadership,” he continued, “ensuring that voices from across our caucus and the ideological spectrum are elevated and included in our legislative agenda and messaging."

The Democrats’ leadership elections are scheduled for next week, when Congress returns to Washington from the Thanksgiving holiday.