Sources: Cleaver Gunning to Lead CBC

Posted September 14, 2010 at 6:34pm

Rep. Emanuel Cleaver appears to be quietly greasing the wheels for a bid to chair the Congressional Black Caucus in the next Congress.

The Missouri Democrat is the group’s “first vice chairman,” a rank that positions him to succeed Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.) when Lee’s term expires at the end of the year. CBC chairmen typically only serve a two-year term.

Cleaver has not made his intentions public, but a Democratic lobbyist with close ties to the caucus said Cleaver has been sharing plans to seek the CBC post in conversations with Members and others with CBC connections. The lobbyist said Cleaver told him firsthand he intended to run for chairman and predicted that Cleaver would not draw any competition.

“I don’t think anybody is going to run against him,” the lobbyist said. “So this may be a year of acclamation again.”

Lee and her predecessor, Rep. Carolyn Cheeks Kilpatrick (D-Mich.), ran uncontested for the spot.

Cleaver on Monday did not rule out the possibility that he would seek the post, but neither he nor his office would comment directly on his intentions.

“The CBC will decide on its next leader when it gathers after the election,” he said in an e-mail statement from his office. “We have a great deal of hard work to do between now and then. It has been my privilege to serve as vice chair of the Caucus. The next chair has a great example to follow in Congresswoman Lee, who has been a steady, energetic and passionate leader.”

Another lawmaker whose name has been floated is Rep. Hank Johnson (D-Ga.), who declined through a spokesman Tuesday to comment on his CBC aspirations.

Cleaver, a former Kansas City mayor, is viewed “as a smart guy, level-headed and passionate at the same time about the things he cares about,” the lobbyist said.

A Democratic aide with ties to the CBC, which begins its legislative conference Wednesday with a series of events on Capitol Hill, predicted Cleaver would “continue the strong emphasis on economic recovery and jobs” that has been Lee’s focus during her time as chairwoman. Cleaver chairs the 42-member group’s economic recovery task force and sits on the Financial Services Committee.

Statistics show African-Americans have been disproportionately affected by the recent recession, and Lee has made funding for summer jobs programs a priority.

The aide noted that Lee had governed the caucus in a “very open and collaborative manner,” adding that was likely to continue if the next chairman came from the group’s executive board, of which Cleaver is a member. The ordained Methodist minister’s “cool, calm demeanor,” could make him a good fit to run the CBC, the aide said.

Should Cleaver become chairman, he may preside over an influx of new CBC members, including Cedric Richmond, who is trying to unseat Republican Anh “Joseph” Cao in Louisiana’s 2nd district, Dan Seals, who is seeking an open seat in Illinois’ 10th district, Karen Bass, who is running to replace Democrat Diane Watson in California’s 33rd district, and Terri Sewell, who is vying to replace Democrat Artur Davis in Alabama’s 7th district.

Unlike Lee, Cleaver has no leadership PAC, but he has contributed to Richmond’s campaign, as well as to CBC member Dan Payne’s re-election effort, according to reports filed with the Federal Election Commission.

Lee established her leadership PAC — One Voice — in July 2004, two years before she was elected CBC vice chairwoman. She has used the PAC to funnel money to campaigns of CBC members and potential members, including Reps. André Carson (D-Ind.), Keith Ellison (D-Minn.), Kendrick Meek (D-Fla.) and Laura Richardson (D-Calif.), as well as Seals’ failed bid to unseat Rep. Mark Kirk in 2008.

Sen. Roland Burris (D-Ill.), the only CBC member in the Senate, acknowledged Cleaver was the heir apparent.

“He is the first vice president … I certainly think he would be next in line if he would be the one selected,” he said.

Anna Palmer contributed to this report.