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Cicilline, Clark privately jockeying for top leadership role

Cicilline, Clark privately jockeying for top leadership role
© Greg Nash

Reps. David CicillineDavid Nicola CicillineThe Hill's 12:30 Report - Presented by Capital One - Tensions rise with Trump, Barr Maloney to lead Democrats' campaign arm Hillicon Valley: GOP chairman says defense bill leaves out Section 230 repeal | Senate panel advances FCC nominee | Krebs says threats to election officials 'undermining democracy' MORE (D-R.I.) and Katherine ClarkKatherine Marlea ClarkThe Hill's 12:30 Report - Presented by Capital One - Tensions rise with Trump, Barr Maloney to lead Democrats' campaign arm Five House Democrats who could join Biden Cabinet MORE (D-Mass.) are privately campaigning for the role of assistant speaker by aggressively meeting with members to garner support for their bids, multiple Democratic sources tell The Hill.

While neither Cicilline nor Clark has made a formal announcement for a leadership run, sources say their behind-the-scenes efforts have been in the works for weeks and are a sign that the jockeying for the fourth-ranking position in the Democratic leadership is heating up.

If both follow through, they will join Rep. Tony Cárdenas (D-Calif.), who became the first member to publicly announce he is running for the role on Friday. 

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The assistant speaker position is the one leadership role that will not have a sitting incumbent. Rep. Ben Ray Luján (D-N.M.), the current assistant speaker, is running for the Senate.

Cicilline, the vice chairman of the Congressional Progressive Caucus who serves as the head of the Democrats' messaging arm, has raised his profile over the last year. 

He was a big part of congressional hearings on large technology companies and the impeachment inquiry into President TrumpDonald John TrumpBiden says GOP senators have called to congratulate him Biden: Trump attending inauguration is 'of consequence' to the country Biden says family will avoid business conflicts MORE. Cicilline, the first openly gay man to serve in Democratic leadership, has long been seen as eyeing ways to rise in the hierarchy.

Clark, a progressive who serves as vice chairwoman of the House Democratic Caucus, has been playing the long game. Her unassuming efforts to rise in leadership while quietly building support among House colleagues — including an effort to curry favor with minority and female lawmakers — has earned her the nickname the “the silent assassin.”

Cárdenas, who also has previously had a stint in leadership, has highlighted his experience leading the Congressional Hispanic Caucus’s political arm, Bold PAC, which raised $17 million to elect Democrats and increased the number of Hispanic members from 25 to 39 over the course of two election cycles.

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While there is no set date for House Democrats’ leadership elections, such a vote typically takes place a few weeks after the conclusion of the November elections.

One lawmaker said all three lawmakers jockeying for the position have reached out in recent weeks, but the member has not yet committed to vote for any of the candidates. 

Two sources described Clark as someone they considered the most formidable of the three, while another voiced support for Cicilline.

Other sources praised the candidate pool and said the outcome of the race will be a win-win for the party.

“Cicilline is an exceptionally talented messenger who’s well respected amongst his peers. Clark is a congenial member who is liked across the board. And Cárdenas is a prominent voice for many of the principles that are near and dear to our party,” said one senior Democratic aide.

“This is a home run for Democrats no matter which way you cut it,” the aide added, calling them a “can’t-miss group.”