A Surprise Challenger: Cicilline Announces He Will Run Against Clyburn For Leadership Spot

UNITED STATES - NOVEMBER 15: Rep. David Cicilline, D-R.I., leaves the House Democrats caucus meeting in the U.S. Capitol in Washington on Tuesday, November 15, 2022. (Bill Clark/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images)
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So much for the entire new House Democratic leadership team being selected by unanimous acclamation. 

In a surprise announcement, Rep. David Cicilline (D-RI) said Wednesday he will be running against House Majority Whip James Clyburn (D-SC) for a top leadership spot.

“With so much at stake, I think it is critical that the House Democratic Leadership team fully reflect the diversity of our caucus and the American people by including an LGBTQ+ member at the leadership table, which is why I’ve decided to run for Assistant Leader,” Cicilline wrote in a Dear Colleagues letter.

Cicilline’s bid for the No. 4 position — assistant leader — came shortly before Democrats were scheduled to vote on the top three leadership positions for their caucus.

The unexpected bid comes after some Democrats were reportedly unhappy with Clyburn’s decision to remain in leadership in the new Congress  — instead of stepping away and making way for a younger leadership team as Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) announced they would.

The Democratic caucus will not vote on the assistant leader position until Thursday as Clyburn is absent Wednesday to attend the funeral of Lavel “Tyler” Davis Jr, one of the University of Virginia football players who was killed in an on-campus shooting earlier this month.

Several Democrats described Cicilline’s bid as a longshot challenge, given Clyburn’s many allies, according to POLITICO. But if Cicilline beats the longtime leadership veteran Clyburn, he would be the highest ranking openly gay Democrat in the House.

The rest of the Wednesday’s leadership election was unsurprising and unopposed. Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY) was elected to be the new Dem leader — making him the first-ever Black member to lead a congressional caucus. Rep. Katherine Clark (D-MA) and Rep. Pete Aguilar (D-CA) will join Jeffries in the leadership team.

Cicilline referred to the recent shooting that took place in a LGBTQ night club in Colorado as a reason that motivated him for his assistant leadership bid. 

“After the shooting in Colorado Springs, I feel the same sense of duty and responsibility to serve in House leadership again,” Cicilline wrote.

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