Rep. Nanette Diaz Barragán (D-San Pedro) has spoken privately with members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus about becoming their next chair.
The 36-strong group is currently chaired by Rep. Raul Ruiz (D-Coachella), but caucus chairs typically only serve a single two-year term. Barragán is the group’s second-largest leader and chairs its affiliated nonprofit, the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute, a group that aims to develop the next generation of Latino leaders.
“I’ve spoken to members about being chairman and so far so well,” Barragán said in an interview. “I will continue to speak to members until the end of my term and see if I get that honor.”
Barragán, who was first elected to Congress in 2016, said she has benefited from the leadership of Ruiz and his predecessors, Rep. Joaquin Castro (D-Texas) and former Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham (DN.M.) , who is now the governor of New Mexico.
Barragán spoke to members about changes they would like to see within the caucus. But the group’s discussions with the White House about the diversity of its workforce — or lack thereof — and its actions to highlight caucus members’ initiatives are “great examples of what we must continue to do,” she said.
“I take something from each of these chairs that I’ve learned and apply it, and then of course I also hear new members and members who are here about what they want,” she said. “So I look forward to continuing to speak to my colleagues and hope to gain their support for the race.”
The races for leadership positions usually begin in earnest after Election Day, with candidates sending letters entitled “Dear Colleague” to express their interest in a post before the caucus or group votes. But several House Democrats and Republicans have already begun publicly bickering for leadership positions and coveted committee posts for the next Congress.
House Majority Whip James E. Clyburn (DS.C.), for example, told the Times over the summer that he was in talks with colleagues about serving in a different leadership role next year. Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-San Francisco) is serving what appears to be her final term as Democratic leader, but has yet to reveal what she will do after the Nov. 8 election.
Barragán, a daughter of Mexican immigrants who represents a majority Hispanic district in Southern California that is home to many immigrant and working-class communities, would become the sixth woman to chair the Congressional Hispanic Caucus since its inception in 1976. The promotion would give her a prominent seat in Congress during a high-stakes presidential cycle in which President Biden and former President Trump are likely to face off again.
“I think being a voice for the Latino community is going to be incredibly important, and … having someone who isn’t afraid to speak the truth to administration, the business community, or our colleagues is going to be incredibly important and one.” have a strong voice Doing that will be helpful to the caucus and to the country, and I think when a Latina does that, I can’t help noticing how powerful it is as well,” said Pete Aguilar (D-Redlands), vice chair of the House Democratic Caucus).
Barragán has been a “force of nature” since entering Congress, Aguilar added. “She’s been a great advocate for her community and that sets her apart.”
Barragán introduced Biden at the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute Gala last week, calling the role one of her “great honors.” The gala was held in person for the first time since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. The president sang “Happy Birthday” to her as the two shared the stage before his speech, and Barragán said she could chat with the president backstage.
“It was really amazing. We had an almost sold-out audience,” said Barragán. “We’ve been able to highlight and honor people who have contributed to the Latino community.”
Barragán has doubled her contributions to BOLD PAC, the caucus’ political action committee, and has endorsed a number of Latino candidates for Congress, including Maxwell Frost in Florida, Greg Casar and Michelle Vallejo in Texas, and Andrea Salinas in Oregon.
She lamented that getting more Democratic Latinas into Congress had been a challenge. Barragán said she and Nevada Senator Catherine Cortez Masto were the only newly elected Democratic Latinas in Congress in 2016.
“We just have to make sure we don’t have years like that again,” Barragán said.
Although Republicans in Congress have tried to focus their medium-term message on the economy and inflation, Democrats have hammered it on abortion rights and labeled far-right Republicans as a threat to democracy.
In recent weeks, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, both Republicans, have successfully put immigration back at the center of national conversations by performing stunts like flying migrants to Martha’s Vineyard in Massachusetts and to Vice President Kamala Harris’s residence in Washington, DC
Barragán, who chairs the Homeland Security Committee’s Subcommittee on Border Security, Facilitation and Operations, is “absolutely” ready for the conversation, she said.
“It’s really disgraceful what they’re doing,” she said of the two GOP governors who are both running for re-election this year. “But it’s a distraction. They don’t want to talk about the real issues, which are about things like abortion, our democracy is at stake.”
Barragán appears to have broad support within the caucus, although she is the only member expressing an interest in Ruiz’s successor.
Rep. Lou Correa (D-Santa Ana) described her as a hard-working “energizer bunny” who “beat the odds” of being elected to Congress.
“I think she deserves to be chair and I will support her,” he said. “She’s consistent and I like that about her. I think her heart is in the right place when it comes to Hispanic, Latino and Chicano issues, so I think she’ll make a good chair.”
Rep. Henry Cuellar (D-Texas), the rare congressional Democrat to oppose abortion rights, admitted in an interview that he doesn’t know if a second candidate is running to become the next caucus chairman.
“If it is her and she is the candidate, I would like to support her,” he said. “She’s very talented, very committed, knows the issues and also understands that there are different viewpoints in the Hispanic caucus.”
A member of the caucus, who requested anonymity so he could speak openly about internal dynamics, recalled that Rep. Veronica Escobar (D-Texas) is interested in serving as caucus chair at this convention. The member said it was unclear if Escobar remained interested in the post or would challenge Barragán.
Asked about her interest, Escobar said she had her eyes on a post outside the caucus. “I will run for another leadership position,” she said. “But first I’ll talk to my colleagues about it.”
https://www.latimes.com/politics/story/2022-09-21/barragan-congressional-hispanic-caucus L.A.’s Barragán seeks to lead the Congressional Hispanic Caucus