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Bob Menendez and Nancy Pelosi following their elections to Democratic leadership posts in the U.S. House of Representatives on November 14, 2002. (File Photo)

How Menendez won House leadership post by 1 vote

New Jerseyan beat Rosa DeLauro for House Democratic Conference Chairman in 2002

By David Wildstein, November 28 2018 7:43 pm

A little history on races for House Democratic Conference Chair, where Hakeem Jeffries (D-New York) defeated Barbara Lee (D-California) for the post by ten votes, 123 to 113.

Those contests have been closer.

In November 2002, Bob Menendez ran for the post in a hotly contested race against Rosa DeLauro (D-Connecticut).  Menendez won by one vote, 104 to 103.

With Minority Leader Dick Gephardt stepping down to focus on his upcoming presidential run, Minority Whip David Bonior leaving early to governor of Michigan, and Democratic Conference Chairman Martin Frost losing re-election, there were a lot of openings in House leadership.

Menendez had won the vice chairmanship in 1998 when Barbara Kennelly left to run for governor of Connecticut.  He was now ready to move up in the ranks of the House leadership, perhaps with a shot at someday becoming Speaker.

The winning vote was cast by Tom Feeley, a Colorado state senator running for an open House seat.  Republican Bob Beauprez led Feeley by 122 votes out of 152,838.  With a recount set for after the November 14 leadership vote, both Feeley and Beauprez headed to Washington for freshman orientation.

Democrats allowed Feeley to vote in contested race for House Minority Leader and Democratic Conference Chair.

Feeley voted for Menendez – the deciding vote, as it turns out.

It took five weeks to count the votes in Colorado.  When the recount was over, Feeley lost by 121.

Menendez passed on a chance to run for the Senate six weeks earlier, when Bob Torricelli dropped out of the race.  He was already committed to seeking the leadership post.  Three years later, after Jon Corzine was elected governor, Menendez decided he didn’t want to wait for Nancy Pelosi and Steny Hoyer to leave, so he pursed the U.S. Senate seat.

Jim Clyburn, still the number three person in the House Democratic leadership, took Menendez’s place as Democratic Conference Chairman.

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