Diana DeGette Drops Out of Whip Race, Clears Way for Clyburn

'Many of my supporters have expressed concern about pressure they are receiving to return the three senior leaders to their posts without opposition,' she said

Rep. Diana DeGette, D-Colo., has withdrawn from the race for majority whip, leaving Rep. James Clyburn, D-S.C., running unopposed. (Photo By Sarah Silbiger/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Colorado Rep. Diana DeGette has dropped out of the race for majority whip, leaving South Carolina Rep. James E. Clyburn running unopposed to retain his No. 3 position in Democratic leadership. 

“Many of my supporters have expressed concern about pressure they are receiving to return the three senior leaders to their posts without opposition,” DeGette said in a statement.  “We have enough work to do without this internal pressure. Therefore, I am withdrawing my bid for Whip at this time.”

DeGette had formally announced her bid for whip Nov. 7, after the midterm elections, but she said she had been talking to colleagues about her interest in the position for the better part of a year.

But her entry into the race still surprised and upset members of the Congressional Black Caucus who were backing Clyburn, especially since he was the only one of the top three longtime Democratic leaders to get a challenger. 

“I just find it interesting and insulting at the same time that he’s the one with opposition,” CBC Chairman Cedric Richmond said last week. 

The Louisiana Democrat said he had been getting calls from Civil Rights leaders who were upset about DeGette’s challenge to Clyburn, the highest ranking black member of Congress. 

Clyburn said he had received such calls as well but noted he did not believe that DeGette was running against him for racial reasons. He had a conversation with her on the floor early last week in which he said they discussed ensuring the race remained civil.

DeGette said when she decided to run she had thought Clyburn would be running for a higher position and so initially did not think she would be challenging him. Once it became clear he was running for whip, she said she stayed in the race because she thought she was qualified for the job and had garnered enough support that she thought she had a shot at winning. 

Richmond pushed back on DeGette’s assertion that she didn’t know Clyburn would run for whip, saying he made that clear to her in a conversation they had on the floor in September.

“I told her specifically … that if the leadership stays the way it is, Clyburn is going to run for whip,” he said. “She said, ‘do  you really think that’s the case.’ I said yes.”

DeGette said in her statement that she looks forward to continuing on as a chief deputy whip, an appointed role. Since the whip gets to pick his deputies, it would ultimately would be up to Clyburn to allow her to remain in that role.

House Democrats are scheduled to hold their leadership elections on Nov. 28.

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