WASHINGTON — Rep. Colleen Hanabusa (D-Hawaii) has been unanimously elected as class representative of Democratic freshmen in the House of Representatives, Hawaii News Now reported on Nov. 30.
The position was created by House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of San Francisco as one of several changes in the Democratic Caucus leadership. Pelosi retained her post despite a challenge from Rep. Tim Ryan of Ohio, who said the party needed new leadership after the November election, in which Democrats lost the White House and failed to change their minority status in the House and Senate.
Pelosi, who won by a vote of 134 to 63, has led the House Democrats for 13 years and was the first female House speaker from 2007 to 2011.
“It is an honor to have been selected by the freshman class to listen, advocate for and represent their interests in the expanded House leadership team approved by the House Democratic Caucus on Thursday, Dec. 1, 2016,” Hanabusa said in a statement. “My special thanks to Leader Pelosi for her vision and support of expanded House leadership as we collectively focus on the many challenges facing our country.”
Rep. Linda Sanchez of Norwalk, chair of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, was chosen as vice chair of the Democratic Caucus, becoming the first woman of color elected to a House leadership position. She defeated Rep. Barbara Lee of Oakland, a member of the Congressional Black Caucus.
Rep. Steny Hoyer of Maryland was unopposed in his bid to remain as Democratic whip, and Rep. Joe Crowley of New York was elected caucus chair.
Pelosi said in a statement, “The vital efforts of leaders in these positions will be strengthened by the mandate of their colleagues, and I am eager to partner with them to tackle the work before our country and caucus.”
Hanabusa is actually not a newcomer to Congress, having served two terms in the House starting in 2011. She gave up her seat to unsuccessfully challenge Sen. Brian Schatz in the 2014 Democratic primary, and her successor was Rep. Mark Takai.
Takai had planned to serve one full term, but died of cancer in July. In November, Hanabusa won two elections — one to serve the remainder of his term and the other to serve a full two-year term. She was sworn in by House Speaker Paul Ryan on Nov. 14 and will be sworn in again in January.