House Democrats elect Ted Lieu as party vice chair

Rep. Ted Lieu (D-Calif.)

House Democrats on Wednesday elected Rep. Ted Lieu (D-Calif.) to serve as vice chair of the caucus next year, solidifying his place as the highest ranking Asian American in Congress.

Lieu bested three other lawmakers — Reps. Joyce Beatty (D-Ohio), Debbie Dingell (D-Mich.) and Madeleine Dean (D-Pa.) — in a closed-ballot vote to secure his spot as the No. 5 House Democrat in the next Congress.

After the vote, Lieu vowed to use his new position “to advance Democratic values and to stop stupid stuff from MAGA Republicans.” He also noted the historic nature of his ascension.

“It’s not lost on me the importance of this vote for the Asian American community,” he said. “And I want to thank both the Congressional Asian Pacific Caucus and the Congressional Hispanic Caucus for endorsing me for the position.”

The vice chair position is currently held by Rep. Pete Aguilar (D-Calif.), who will vacate the seat next year to replace Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.) in the chairman spot. Jeffries, in turn, is ascending to the top position in the party, replacing Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), who is stepping out of leadership next year after 20 years at the helm of House Democrats.

With four candidates, the vice-chair race was easily the most competitive of the contests to decide the Democrats’ leadership structure in the 118th Congress. And it featured four popular lawmakers who have each made their mark on the caucus in recent years.

Lieu and Dingell both serve currently as co-chairs of the House Democratic Policy and Communications Committee (DPCC). Beatty is the head of the powerful Congressional Black Caucus. And Dean saw her star rise in this Congress as one of the Democrats who led the second impeachment of President Trump following last year’s attack on the U.S. Capitol.

In the end, Lieu was victorious in the ranked-choice process, which required several rounds of votes to determine the winner.  The final round put Lieu against Dingell, who had argued the importance of Democrats empowering voices from the Midwest. Leaving the meeting room in the Longworth Congressional Building, Dingell warned that there could be political repercussions for ignoring the heartland.

“I hope our caucus understands majorities and minorities are made in the Midwest, and that half this caucus is women,” she said. “But he won, and we’re all gonna pull together.”

Born in Taiwan, Lieu previously served as legal counsel for the Air Force, where he remains a reservist. He was first elected to Congress in 2014, filling the seat vacated by Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.), who retired that year after 40 years on Capitol Hill.

Over his eight years, Lieu has become something of a social-media star, known for his droll attacks on Trump and other Republicans. In the process, he’s built a small army of 1.6 million Twitter followers.

In a memorable episode this year, he went to the House floor promising to recite everything Jesus Christ said about homosexuality. He then stood silently for 20 seconds before yielding the podium.

Updated at 5:55 p.m.

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