House Democrats feel they need to be ready to immediately begin acting on their agenda if they retake the majority this fall, and one way some members are preparing for that scenario is by launching leadership campaigns.
Rep. Katherine M. Clark on Thursday became the latest member to announce a leadership bid and the first to declare a candidacy for Democratic Caucus vice chair.
The Massachusetts Democrat is likely to face competition though, as more than a dozen Democrats are eyeing opportunities to enter or move up in leadership.
Clark, if successful in her bid, would be new to elected Democratic leadership, but she has served in several appointed roles. She is a senior whip and a member of the Democratic Steering and Policy Committee, which doles out committee slots.
The role that inspired Clark to pursue the vice chair post, however, was one with the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, in which she works with candidates. She had started off as recruitment chairwoman, but now that those efforts are over, she is working as a co-chair of the Red to Blue program for top recruits seen as capable of flipping Republican-held seats.
Clark said she’s been witnessing “unprecedented energy and enthusiasm” in recent years, especially since President Donald Trump took office. That has solidified more as she’s spent time in her DCCC role talking to hundreds of candidates around the country.
“They are being successful because of the meaningful conversations they’re having with voters,” she said in an interview, noting they are highlighting and prioritizing issues such as health care, wages, accessible child care, infrastructure and rural broadband.
Clark wants to channel those conversations and individual members’ experiences into an agenda that reflects the various viewpoints in the Democratic Caucus.
“The diversity of our caucus — whether it’s geography, ideology, race, gender — is really our strongest asset,” she said. “I think I’m going to be able to build on that strength and give every member a chance to be part of setting the agenda.”
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The reason Clark is announcing her candidacy more than four months before Democrats will hold their leadership elections — they voted last week to ensure they’re held sometime after Dec. 5 — is to start crafting that agenda with her colleagues’ input.
“Our job is creating a majority in the House and flipping the House so that we have a Congress that’s going to stand up for people again,” she said. “And the reason I announced now is that I want us to be ready to do just that on Day One.”
Launching a campaign now, Clark said, gives her time to talk to colleagues and would-be colleagues and get their input for a strategy that can quickly deliver solutions.
The other goal, she said, is to come up with a plan for “how we can organize and keep that connection to our voters and our communities at home thriving.”