Clark officially entered what so far is a three-person field — Representatives Tony Cárdenas of California and David Cicilline of Rhode Island already are running — with a letter to her colleagues on Tuesday morning.
Clark’s swift and quiet rise up the ranks of power in the House since arriving in late 2013 has reportedly earned her the nickname “the silent assassin,” and a win could put her on a path to climb higher.
“Effective leadership is not about individual ambition,” Clark wrote in her letter, “but collective good.”
The assistant speaker position, which is held by Representative Ben Ray Luján, a New Mexico Democrat who is running for Senate, is the fourth-ranking spot in the House leadership. Clark currently holds a lower leadership position as vice chair of the Democratic caucus. She is expected to be reelected in November and Democrats are forecast to hold the House majority.
Members of the Massachusetts congressional delegation have a storied history of ascending to the highest ranks of power on Capitol Hill — but nearly all of them have been men, including the eight House speakers from the state and every committee chair from Massachusetts except for Edith Nourse Rogers, a Republican who led the Veterans Affairs committee from 1947 to 1949 and 1953 to 1955.
“She would be the first woman, and have done it in the shortest amount of time — especially coming on the heels of getting elected to the district in a state that’s still woefully pitiful when it comes to electing women,” said Mary Anne Marsh, a Boston-based political consultant. “You can’t underestimate the effectiveness of Katherine Clark.”
Clark has become a prolific fund-raiser for the party. Her allies describe her as a listener more than a talker with a deep understanding of different constituencies within the Democratic caucus, a progressive from a safe blue district who spent much of the 2018 cycle traveling the country to recruit — and then to elect — members in swing districts.
“She looks out for them,” said New Hampshire Representative Annie Kuster, a Democrat from a fairly moderate district, who described Clark speaking up in leadership meetings to remind her colleagues which votes would be difficult for members in competitive districts to take.
Clark, a former state lawmaker, won a 2013 special election to fill Edward J. Markey’s House seat after he was elected to the Senate. She has made headlines at certain points in her tenure — including in 2016, when she and the late Representative John Lewis led a 25-hour sit-in on the House floor to pressure Republicans to act on gun control measures. But over the past few years, she has focused on getting new Democratic candidates elected and quietly building alliances.
Now, she’s hoping that work will draw enough loyalty from new members — as well as her longtime colleagues — to elevate her further in the House. “She’s got a whole freshman class who’s indebted to her,” Marsh said.
Representative Sylvia Garcia of Texas, a