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Katherine Clark announces bid to become number two in House Democratic Leadership

Remark

A day after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and her two top lieutenants said they would step down as top House Democrats, Rep. Katherine M. Clark (D-Mass.) announce Friday that she will be running for the number two position in the caucus.

Clark’s move is part of the Democrats’ desire to quickly establish a new set of leaders after having the same three members at the top: Pelosi, Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer (D-Md.), and Majority Whip James E. Clyburn (DS. C.) – for 16 years.

Clark is a candidate for the number two position, which Hoyer, who has led the company for 36 years, has held since 2003. Hoyer announced Thursday afternoon that he will not seek a leadership position during the next convention, paving the way for Clark.

“I have the track record of bringing people and solutions together, and I have built trust in the caucus across different ideological corners, geographic parts of our caucus by listening and really knowing what issues the members care about where they need to deliver for their districts,” Clark said in an interview.

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On Friday morning, Clark sends a letter to her colleagues announcing her run.

In the letter to The Washington Post, she wrote that the Democrats “exceeded expectations” by winning a “historically narrow margin” in the House. “Now we must be strong, agile and united to stop the dangerous agenda of the Republican House majority and take back the House,” she wrote.

Clark would be the second woman, after Pelosi, in history to hold one of the top two positions of House leadership.

Clark’s entry into the race is yet another long overdue move to hand over leadership to a new, younger class of legislators. Some Democrats have called for the top three to stand aside for several congresses. Only Pelosi pledged in 2018 and again in 2020 that this would be her last term.

Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (DN.Y.) is expected to officially announce Friday that he is running for Democratic leader and Rep. Pete Aguilar (D-Calif.) is expected to announce that he is running for the number three leadership post.

Waiting to take the reins, Jeffries, Clark and Aguilar have positioned themselves among their peers as the next generation of Democratic leadership.

The changing of the guard is bittersweet to rank and file members who are thrilled but also nervous about the loss of monumental figures in the party’s modern history who knew how to count votes, raise gobs of money and negotiate among their own members, the Senate and the president.

“We are going to pull the plug and do our best to improve the lives of all our constituents,” said Representative Grace Meng (DN.Y.). “I have confidence in the new leadership.”

Clark, 59, is a candidate for the whip position, responsible for counting and rounding up support or opposition in key votes. It’s a much easier task in the minority to keep the party united against a small Republican majority in the House focused on scrutinizing the Biden administration and blocking the president’s agenda.

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Clark comes from a deep blue district that encompasses some of Boston’s suburbs and won reelection with 74 percent of the vote, an important factor for leadership members who can focus on getting their peers re-elected and not their own race.

She has been laying the foundations for a prominent leadership position for many years. She was first elected to Congress in a special election to replace the then Representative. Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) in 2013. Four years later, she was elected by her peers to serve in Democratic leadership as caucus vice president and rose to rank four, assistant speaker, in 2020.

More recently, Clark has done the job of rallying support from her peers, traveling to 19 states to campaign and raise $12 million for fellow Democrats ahead of the midterm elections. She hosted a party for the incoming freshman class with Jeffries and Aguilar on Wednesday night.

“I think it’s time for a generational change in our leadership,” said Rep. Colin Allred (D-Tex.) as he thanked the current leadership team for what he said “brought us through, I think, one of the most productive congresses in modern history.”

No one has announced that they will challenge Clark. House Democrats will hold their leadership election on November 30.

Clark had spent the past few weeks building her support with members and was mobilizing to help her secure needed support should Hoyer, or any other member, decide to run.

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Central to her approach as a member of the leadership would remain her focus on women and families. In Massachusetts, before serving in the state legislature, she was an attorney for the state’s Office of Child Care Services.

As a member of the “sandwich generation,” caring for young children at the same time as elderly parents, Clark said women’s struggles have always been front and center for her. She is a member of the Women’s Caucus and has been instrumental in working with members to spread messages about access to abortion and has worked to empower federal workers to receive more fertility benefits and child care. She worked to provide federal support to childcare providers during the pandemic.

Clark, who said a majority of her donors are women, said the midterm elections showed that women’s voices are powerful and their needs should drive Democratic Party policies. She said she grew increasingly frustrated during the midterms because abortion and economics were viewed as separate issues. “Deciding if and when to have children,” she said, “is such a fundamental economic security issue.”

She has worked over the years to build relationships with members of the caucus.

Through her role in recruiting candidates for the red districts in 2018, she forged a deep connection with moderate Democrats who were most at risk of losing their reelections. She mentored new members in her role as vice chair of the caucus. A member of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, she belongs to the party’s most liberal wing.

“Katherine does a great job of diversifying and prioritizing – how do we get to a consensus product?” Representative Angie Craig (D-Minn.) said.

Her friends and allies said she is adept at building personal connections.

“She knows about their kids, she knows about their husbands, she knows about their parents, and who just had surgery and who won’t be here to vote next week because they’re at a funeral,” said Rep. Annie Kuster (DN.H.), who stays with Clark when they are in Washington.

Rep. Jim McGovern (D-Mass.), her home state colleague and a proud progressive, has been one of her leading drivers. To argue for Clark, he pointed to the work she did with Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.) to stage a 2016 sit-in on the House floor to protest gun violence.

“She’s got a lot of guts and isn’t afraid to take a stand,” McGovern said.

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