POLITICS

N.M. Rep. Ben Ray Luján tapped to head Democratic campaign committee

Rep. Ben Ray Lujan, D-N.M., center, thanks House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., right, after she announced he will take over as head of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee from Rep. Steve Israel, D-N.Y., left, during a news conference at the Capitol in Washington, Monday, Nov. 17, 2014.

Rep. Ben Ray Lujan, D-N.M., center, thanks House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., right, after she announced he will take over as head of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee from Rep. Steve Israel, D-N.Y., left, during a news conference at the Capitol in Washington, Monday, Nov. 17, 2014.

House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi announced Monday that she had tapped Rep. Ben Ray Luján to head the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) and try to get the party back on track after a drubbing in midterm elections.

If approved, the 42-year-old Luján would become the first Hispanic to hold the post of DCCC chairman, succeeding New York Rep. Steve Israel.

"Congressman Ben Ray Luján is a dynamic and forward-looking leader with the fresh energy and ideas House Democrats need for victory in 2016," Pelosi said in a press release. "Congressman Luján has the bold vision and determined leadership to deliver Democratic wins in difficult districts – and I am confident he will prove a tireless champion for our members and candidates across the country."

Luján was born in Santa Fe to Carmen and Ben Luján, who was the speaker of the New Mexico House of Representatives from 2001 until his death in December 2012. The younger Luján has held several public service positions, inlcuding Deputy State Treasurer, Director of Administrative Services and Chief Financial Officer for the New Mexico Cultural Affairs Department.

In 2004 he was elected to the New Mexico Public Regulation Commission and in 2008 Luján won the spot to succeed U.S. Rep. Tom Udall in New Mexico's 3rd congressional district.

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The midterms of President Barack Obama's second term were widely expected to be tough for Democrats, but the party had even tougher going than expected as the GOP claimed a commanding majority and captured seats in typically favorable states such as New York, Illinois and Maine.

Democrats lost at least a dozen seats and Republicans should hold 246 in the next Congress, the most in nearly 70 years.

Luján told reporters at a news conference that the 2016 presidential election year should be more favorable.

"We will be on the offensive to put the majority in play," he said.

Despite having their strength at an historic low, Democrats plan to stand pat with their Congressional leadership at elections on Tuesday. Democrats are expected to re-elect the 14-term Pelosi as House leader and 17-term Rep. Steny Hoyer of Maryland for the No. 2 job.

In addition to Luján, Pelosi is recommending that Israel serve as chairman of policy and communications, crafting a message for the party; Rep. Rosa DeLauro of Connecticut to be the Steering Committee co-chairman and Rep. Donna Edwards of Maryland to be policy co-chair.

The Democratic caucus is expected to approve the slate.

Luján told reporters Monday that he wants to "take lessons from the recent elections and get right to work."

Based on reporting by The Associated Press.

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