Who Replaces Hastings?

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If you want to know whom Speaker-elect Nancy Pelosi is considering to replace Rep. Alcee Hastings of Florida as next term's chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, you need look no further than the Congressional Hispanic Caucus. It's the only group that supported Democrats in a big way in the November elections yet hasn't been rewarded with leadership posts.

Congressional insiders tell me Rep. Silvestre Reyes of Texas, a current member of the House Select Permanent Committee on Intelligence and specialist on homeland- and border-security issues, is the top candidate for chairmanship of the committee. Rep. Xavier Becerra of California leads the list of candidates to replace Rep. Rahm Emanuel of Illinois as chair of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. That will make him fundraiser-in-chief for House Democrats in the critical '08 elections.

Democrats owe Hispanic voters big time. Hispanic voters increased support for Democratic congressional candidates by a double-digit margin in this month's elections, compared with how they voted two years ago.

Republicans turned Hispanic voters away with conservative-wing support for tough border enforcement. "About 30 percent of Hispanic voters chose Republican candidates, the Washington Post reported. That's down from the record 40 percent to 44 percent who supported President Bush in 2004.

"'I think you have to look at the Republican effort on immigration as a catastrophic mistake in a year when they made many mistakes,' Simon Rosenberg, president of NDN, formerly the New Democrat Network, told the Post. 'They now know that the Republican Party is hostile to Hispanics, which is something they didn't know two years ago. That's a big burden for them to overcome.'"

Democrats are mindful of the possibility that that double-digit margin could shift back toward Republicans in '08 if they don't reward Hispanic members of Congress with leadership positions. This raises the question, what does Speaker-elect Pelosi have in mind for senior Hispanic women such as CHC Chair Grace Napolitano of California, Reps. Hilda Solis and Loretta Sanchez of California and New York's Nydia Velázquez?