WASHINGTON – Rep. Steny Hoyer, D-Mechanicsville, was unanimously elected House minority whip Thursday, making him the No. 2 Democrat in the House and the first Marylander to hold such a high leadership post.
Hoyer was unopposed in this, his third bid, for the job of whip, whose duty is to round up votes on certain issues and to try and bring the party together.
While his election brings bragging rights to the state, analysts say the position will likely have little impact on Maryland’s legislative fortunes. Hoyer conceded as much, but said he will still retain his position on the powerful House Appropriations Committee.
“Being whip will certainly enhance my ability to focus on Maryland. But appropriations is where I can serve my district the best,” he said. “The whip job allows me to serve the party and the country.”
Hoyer, who was just elected to his 12th term in Congress from Maryland’s 5th District, beamed Thursday as he stood before a crowd of reporters and congressional staff to accept the position he first sought 11 years ago.
“I am gratified that my candidacy was supported by every element of our diverse caucus,” Hoyer said. “I plan to build on that foundation to help create a strong, unified caucus that advances a positive and active agenda for the American people.”
Small states like Maryland, with their handful of representatives, generally have a harder time winning leadership positions within the party. But supporters said Hoyer’s 21 years of service and ability to bring people together have given him the recognition necessary to become whip.
It also did not hurt that Hoyer has raised large amounts of money for other Democratic candidates, parceling out more than $600,000 and stumping in more than 20 districts around the country this year alone.
“I’m delighted for him,” said Rep. Albert Wynn, D-Mitchellville. “It’s a testament to his perseverance.” Hoyer is taking over from Rep. Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., the current whip, who beat out Rep. Harold Ford Jr., D-Tenn., 177-29 for the job of House minority leader. Pelosi, who beat Hoyer for the whip’s job in 2001, becomes the first woman minority leader for either major party.
The race for minority leader showcased ideological differences that have emerged within the party after significant losses in the midterm elections, with Ford arguing for a more moderate course.
Hoyer said he has no bitterness toward Pelosi from their 2001 race and expects to work closely with her, even though she is more liberal than he is.
“She is not going to be the liberal leader of the party, she is going to be the Democratic leader of the party,” Hoyer said. “There are differences from time to time, but I expect to work shoulder to shoulder with Pelosi.”
Before his 2001 loss to Pelosi, Hoyer lost a 1991 bid for whip to then- Rep. David Bonior, D-Mich. Rep. Ben Cardin, D-Baltimore, who managed Hoyer’s last two whip campaigns, said the unanimous support Hoyer got shows his ability to bring people together from all backgrounds.
“He will be a bridge builder, he has an awful lot of credibility,” Cardin said. “As a whip, he will be extremely valuable in reaching out to senators and to the White House.”