Rep. David Cicilline (D-R.I.) on Wednesday announced a bid to join the top tiers of Democratic leadership, challenging Rep. Jim Clyburn (D-S.C.) for the No. 4 spot within the party brass in the next Congress.
The move, announced just hours before Democrats were set to vote on their next crop of leaders, came as a surprise.
Clyburn had announced earlier in the month that he would cede his third-ranking spot next year, but would seek to remain in the top tiers of leadership at the No. 4 assistant leader position, arguing the South needed representation in the top ranks.
And until Wednesday morning, it was thought he would be running unopposed.
But Cicilline, who rose to become the first openly gay leader in Congress when he led the Democrats’ messaging arm in 2017, said the LGBTQ community deserves a leadership spot of its own. He cited the recent fatal shooting at a gay bar in Colorado as a driving factor behind his bid.
He also noted that LGBTQ+ members in House Democratic leadership lost their races in this month’s midterms: Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney (D-N.Y.), the chair of the caucus’ campaign arm, and Rep. Mondaire Jones (D-N.Y.), the freshman representative to leadership, both failed to secure reelection.
“A few days before Thanksgiving, our country was torn apart by yet another mass shooting at an LGBTQ+ nightclub in Colorado Springs. It reminded me immediately of the Pulse nightclub shooting in 2016 and how we came together as a caucus to demand action on gun safety legislation by organizing the first ever sit-in on the House floor,” Cicilline wrote Wednesday in a letter to fellow Democrats.
“Later that year, I decided to run for DPCC Co-Chair because I wanted to help serve our Caucus and represent the LGBTQ community in leadership. After the shooting in Colorado Springs, I feel the same sense of duty and responsibility to serve in House leadership again,” he added.