Katherine Clark announces candidacy to be assistant House speaker

"Effective leadership is not about individual ambition, but our collective good."

Democratic Caucus Vice Chair, Rep. Katherine Clark, D-Mass., speaks alongsige Chairman Rep. Hakeem Jeffries of N.Y., during a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, Monday, June 29, 2020. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)
Rep. Katherine Clark speaks alongside New York Rep. Hakeem Jeffries during a news conference on Capitol Hill in June. –Patrick Semansky / AP

Rep. Katherine Clark has risen quickly up through the ranks of Democratic leadership during her seven years in Congress.

She’s looking to move up even higher.

Clark announced her candidacy Tuesday to be assistant House speaker if her party maintains control of the chamber in the November election.

The Melrose Democrat is currently the sixth-highest-ranking member of her party in the House, since becoming vice chair of the House Democratic Caucus in 2018. If she does become assistant speaker, she would be fourth.

In a letter Tuesday to colleagues, Clark cited her efforts in 2018 to recruit and support Democratic candidates across the country, as well as her “individualized approach” as caucus vice chair to bring the diverse group’s “perspectives and priorities to the leadership table.”

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“Effective leadership is not about individual ambition, but our collective good,” Clark wrote.

“It is about truly listening and understanding the needs of our Members and using my voice at the leadership table to amplify yours,” she continued. “This is not the stuff of headlines, but it is the meticulous work that helps Members achieve their legislative goals and serve their constituents, and makes our Caucus stronger. Over the last four years, I have dedicated myself to this effort.”

The party’s current assistant speaker, New Mexico Rep. Ben Ray Luján, is running for Senate.

But the Massachusetts congresswoman isn’t the only candidate in the potential intra-party race to fill the void — nor the only New England Democrat in the running.

Rhode Island Rep. David Cicilline and California Rep. Tony Cárdenas have also both publicly announced their candidacies. And behind the scenes, Clark and Cicilline have been aggressively meeting with fellow Democrats to garner support for their bids, The Hill reported last month.

The outlet also reported last year that some congressional Democrats have begun referring to Clark as “the silent assassin” in reference to her under-the-radar approach, holding one-on-one meetings and monthly policy dinners with fellow representatives.

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“From innovative, community-based solutions to gun violence, to the economic development of small towns across the Heartland, to analyzing how we create anti-racist policy, these dinners have provoked candid discussions, greater understanding, and deeper collaboration among Members,” Clark wrote in her letter Tuesday, which also cited efforts to increase the diversity of congressional staff and make logistical improvements to member services.

Cicillline, the chairman of the House Democratic Policy and Communications Committee, which is tasked with messaging, has cut a more public profile as a critic of large technology companies and a frequent guest on CNN and other TV outlets (though Clark regularly makes cable news appearances as well). Cárdenas, meanwhile, has argued that Democrats need to have at least one Hispanic member in a leadership position after Luján’s departure.

So far, Clark’s efforts have paid at least some proverbial dividends, as she rolled out her candidacy Tuesday along with a slate of endorsements from fellow colleagues, including Wisconsin Rep. Mark Pocan, a co-chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus.

“Congress serves the people and Katherine has exemplified that service in her over seven years championing populist people-first legislation in the House,” Pocan said in a statement. “We need someone with her vision and commitment to bold solutions sitting at the leadership table.”

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