Rep. Katherine Clark ascended the Democratic leadership ladder on Wednesday, jumping two rungs to claim the No. 4 spot atop the caucus in the coming Congress.

The four-term Massachusetts lawmaker beat back a challenge from Rep. David Cicilline (D-R.I.) to become assistant Speaker, a spot vacated by Rep. Ben Ray Luján (D-N.M.), who won election to the Senate. The vote was 135 to 92 in the secret balloting, which allows lawmakers anonymity in picking their leadership choices.

A former prosecutor, Clark came to Congress in 2013 following a special election to replace now-Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.). She is currently the vice chair of the caucus, a position she’s held for the last two years under Chairman Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.), who won reelection to that seat Wednesday.

Her victory ensures that Democrats, historically sensitive to the politics of identity and diversity, will have another woman in the highest reaches of leadership, below Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), who’s led the party since 2003 but has vowed the next term to be her last.

Cicilline, who heads the Democrats’ messaging arm, had brought his own diverse background to the race. The former Providence mayor is the only Jewish member of leadership and a longtime member of the Congressional LGBTQ Equality Caucus, which along with the Human Rights Campaign had endorsed him in the contest.

The assistant Speaker position was created by Pelosi in 2018 as a landing spot for Lujan, who had just guided the Democrats back to the House majority after eight years without the gavel. 

Clark, 57, is one of the party’s strongest fundraisers, a trait that will position her well to climb even higher when the top three Democrats — Pelosi, Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (Md.) and Majority Whip James Clyburn (S.C.) — eventually step aside.

This cycle, she raised $4.5 million for House Democrats, sprinkling that money around to 166 incumbents and new candidates as well as the party’s campaign arm.

Clark’s also been cultivating relationships with two critical voting blocs in the increasingly diverse caucus: women and minorities. Clark is a member of an informal group of female lawmakers, the “Pink Ladies,” who eat dinner together after votes when they are in Washington.

And Clark has been quietly courting members of the minority caucuses. In recent years, she’s attended weekend galas hosted by the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC), Congressional Hispanic Caucus (CHC) and Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus (CAPAC).

Among those who endorsed her were former CBC Chairman Emanuel Cleaver (Mo.); Rep. Grace Meng (N.Y.), a top Democratic National Committee official and CAPAC leader; Rep. Sylvia Garcia (Texas), a CHC member who was an impeachment manager; and Rep. Mark Pocan (Wis.), a co-chairman of both the Progressive Caucus and Congressional LGBT Equality Caucus.


Original story here.