WASHINGTON (AP) — The chairwoman of the Congressional Black Caucus said Monday that Rep. James Clyburn, the highest ranking African-American in the House Democratic leadership, should be the vanquished party’s second in command in the next Congress.

“Jim has spent a lifetime working to bridge what divides us,” Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Calif., wrote in a letter urging the Democratic Caucus to vote for the South Carolina Democrat. “In the 112th Congress, we will need Jim’s dedication to thwart Republican efforts to repeal all of the progress we have made.”

Lee’s letter comes after Rep. Steny Hoyer of Maryland released the names of 30 rank-and-file Democrats who endorsed him for the same post. Hoyer’s letter, authored by Rep. Linda Sanchez of California, praised him as a listener with the ability to stand up to Republicans.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Friday she would seek the top Democratic job of minority leader, which set up a race between Clyburn, currently the No. 3 as Democratic Whip, and Hoyer, the No. 2 as House Majority leader. Whatever the outcome of that race, House Democrats could see the same leadership roster that was ousted from power in last week’s midterm elections.

Not all members of the CBC were falling in line behind Clyburn. Rep. Jesse Jackson, Jr., D-Ill., released a statement on the Hoyer-Clyburn race endorsing neither one.

Copyright 2010 The Associated Press.