David Cicilline launches bid for assistant Speaker


Rep. David Cicilline (D-R.I.) officially jumped into the race for assistant Speaker on Thursday, as he seeks to climb a few rungs up the leadership ladder.

Cicilline serves as chairman of the House Democrats’s messaging arm, the Democratic Policy and Communications Committee (DPCC). The Rhode Island progressive will square off against Rep. Tony Cárdenas (D-Calif.) in the race to replace Assistant Speaker Ben Ray Luján (D-N.M.), who is running for an open Senate seat.

“As the first openly gay member elected to the House leadership, it has been an incredible honor and privilege to serve as Chairman and Co-chair of the DPCC over the last four years,” Cicilline wrote to colleagues. “I am eager to take on a new responsibility and to help lead our caucus as the next Assistant Speaker.”

Rep. Katherine Clark (D-Mass.), the vice chairwoman of the Democratic caucus and a prolific party fundraiser, also is expected to launch a run for assistant Speaker. She’s been checking in with members but hasn’t made it official.

There are no defined responsibilities for the assistant Speaker. The job was created by Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) to alleviate the bottleneck in leadership as younger, ambitious Democrats had nowhere to go as the old bulls — Pelosi, Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) and Majority Whip James Clyburn (D-S.C.) — rejected calls to retire and held onto power.

In his “Dear Colleague” letter, Cicilline noted that he had run for assistant Speaker last cycle but dropped out when Luján, fresh off delivering the majority to the party as leader of the campaign arm, decided to seek the job. Cicilline, who has served in Congress since 2011, said he is even more prepared and experienced for the job now.

The 59-year-old vowed to act as a “bridge” between the leadership team and rank-and-file lawmakers, and said he wants members to have a stronger voice in the legislative process. He also said he would work closely with the House Office of Diversity and Inclusion to help members find diverse candidates for positions on Capitol Hill.

With a bigger profile in the caucus, Cicilline would be the favorite in a race against Cárdenas. But Cárdenas is a leading member of the increasingly powerful Congressional Hispanic Caucus (CHC). He has served as chairman of the CHC’s political arm, Bold PAC, which during the past two cycles raised $17 million for Democrats and boosted the number of Hispanic members from 25 to 39.

Clark, however, could scramble the race entirely if she jumps in. She’s a popular member who’s been courting both minority and female Democrats, two groups that have quickly become the new power centers of the 232-member caucus. Some colleagues have nicknamed her the “silent assassin” as she’s plotted her climb up the leadership ladder.

Leadership elections will be held shortly after the general election on Nov. 3.

Updated at 4:10 p.m.

Tags David Cicilline House leadership Katherine Clark Nancy Pelosi Rhode Island Steny Hoyer Tony Cardenas
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