Metro Weekly

Gay congressman loses bid for Assistant Speaker in Democratic House leadership elections

Rep. David Cicilline, endorsed by Equality Caucus, falls short against Massachusetts Rep. Katherine Clark

David Cicilline, gay, congress

David Cicilline, D-R.I. – Photo: U.S. Congress

Out gay U.S. Rep. David Cicilline (D-R.I.) fell short in his bid for assistant speaker as Democrats held leadership elections for high-profile positions within their own caucus for the next two years.

Cicilline, 59, faced off against a fellow New Englander, Rep. Katherine Clark (D-Mass.), 57, as they sought the No. 4 position in the Democratic caucus, which opened up following current Assistant Speaker Ben Ray Luján’s (D-N.M.) election to the U.S. Senate.

In the end, Clark bested Cicilline by a vote of 135-92, making her the second-highest-ranking woman in party leadership behind Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.).

It also makes her a more likely to become a potential future Speaker or House Minority Leader after the top three House Democrats — Nancy Pelosi, Steny Hoyer, and James Clyburn, all in their 80s — eventually retire.

Her chief opponent for a future Speakership would likely be House Democratic Caucus Chairman Hakeem Jeffries, 50, who ran unopposed for the No. 5 position in the caucus, reports Roll Call.

Clark was first elected to the House during a special election in 2013 to replace U.S. Sen. Ed Markey following his election to the seat formerly held by then-Secretary of State John Kerry. She has quickly risen in the ranks of a Democratic caucus that has been criticized for being overly reliant on the seniority system and stifling chances for advancement for up-and-coming political rising stars. 

According to The Hill, Clark raised $4.5 million for House Democrats, donating money to 166 Democratic candidates for office, as well as to the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, the House Democrats’ campaign arm.

She also fostered relationships with female lawmakers and actively courted support from members of the Congressional Black Caucus, the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, and the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus.

Cicilline, the author of the pro-LGBTQ Equality Act, was endorsed by the Congressional LGBTQ+ Equality Caucus in his bid for assistant speaker, but Clark scored a coup by earning the personal endorsement of Rep. Mark Pocan (D-Wis.), a co-chairman of both the Progressive Caucus and the Equality Caucus.

See also: Ritchie Torres on making history, his progressive credentials, and giving hope to LGBTQ youth

Cicilline congratulated Clark on a ‘hard fought campaign,” but promised that Democrats would come together to deliver on their policy promises.

“I look forward to being a part of those efforts and doing whatever I can to make real progress for the people we serve,” he said.

Democrats are expected to vote for the chair of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee for the 2022 campaign cycle sometimes during the week of Nov. 30.

That race pits another openly gay member of the Democratic caucus, U.S. Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney (D-N.Y.), against Rep. Tony Cárdenas (D-Calif.), who has run the Congressional Hispanic Caucus’s campaign arm, BOLD PAC. The Congressional LGBTQ+ Equality Caucus has endorsed Maloney, as has the LGBTQ Victory Fund, which seeks to get LGBTQ people elected to political office.

“Democrats need a chair who believes diverse candidates are competitive in swing districts and who knows how to win tough races — and that is the story of Sean Patrick Maloney,” Annise Parker, the president and CEO of LGBTQ Victory Fund, said in a statement.

“He is a proud out gay man with three adopted kids and his authenticity and message resonate in his conservative-leaning district,” Parker continued. “More LGBTQ people and people of color are running for Congress than ever before and Rep. Maloney has the foresight to see it as an opportunity to diversify representation and increase the Democratic majority in 2022.”

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John Riley is the local news reporter for Metro Weekly. He can be reached at jriley@metroweekly.com

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