WASHINGTON -- Maryland Rep. Steny H. Hoyer's chances of moving up the House leadership ladder have received a boost from Rep. Vic Fazio, a potential opponent who has decided to back Hoyer.
Campaigning for the majority whip position, the third highes leadership post, is in full swing following the resignation announcement yesterday of Rep. William H. Gray, D-Pa., who will become president of the United Negro College Fund in September.
The top two candidates for Gray's job are Hoyer, D-5th, who i chairman of the House Democratic Caucus, the fourth-ranked job, and Rep. David E. Bonior, D-Mich., the chief deputy whip.
Speaker Thomas Foley, D-Wash., said he has suggested that a election for a new Democratic whip take place in July, with Gray remaining in office until he resigns in September.
Although Bonior got a head start in lobbying for the whip post, beginning three weeks ago when rumors of Gray's plans surfaced, Hoyer's allies believe Fazio's announcement of support yesterday gives him momentum.
"That was . . . a major help," said Maryland Rep. Benjamin L Cardin, D-3rd, a longtime friend of Hoyer who is lobbying for his election to whip.
There are 26 Democrats in California's delegation, the largest i Congress. Had Fazio decided to run for majority whip, he could have counted on the delegation's support.
But Fazio hasn't ruled out running for a post -- Hoyer's job -- i
Hoyer moves up. Other lawmakers are contemplating runs for either Hoyer's job or Bonior's.
Hoyer's press secretary, Charles Seigel, said that o Wednesday, before Fazio's intentions were known, Hoyer had nearly as many commitments of support lined up as Bonior.
Cardin said while the vote is "too early to call" Hoyer has "significant base" and has the qualities members look for in a whip.
"Clearly the major concerns are the person's ability to bring consensus in the [Democratic] caucus, to get votes, to represent the party's position on issues and to be a conduit for members' views into the leadership," Cardin said.
Hoyer, 52, has been caucus chairman for two years and a congressman since 1981. Bonior, 46, came to Washington in 1977. Both men are considered liberals. Bonior, who is Catholic, opposes abortion while Hoyer supports a woman's right to choose.