Monday, 2 Aug 2021

Representative Cedric Richmond Set to Be a Senior Biden Adviser

During the past 10 years, Representative Cedric L. Richmond of Louisiana has represented most of New Orleans in Congress, led the Congressional Black Caucus and steadily emerged as one of the most influential Black voices on Capitol Hill, a reputation he cemented when he joined President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s campaign as its first national co-chairman.

Now he is poised to become one of the highest-ranking Black officials in the Biden administration.

Mr. Richmond, who maintains an extensive political network and is known for delivering candid advice, will be a senior adviser to Mr. Biden and the director of the White House Office of Public Engagement, roles that will allow him to build on his deep relationships in Congress, with key political constituencies and with Mr. Biden himself.

“He’s going to give straight advice,” said Marc H. Morial, the president of the National Urban League and a former mayor of New Orleans, who has known Mr. Richmond since his days serving in the Louisiana state legislature. “He’s not a yes man.”

“It sends a really powerful signal to the Black community that Cedric is going to be in that core group,” added Mr. Morial, also describing Mr. Richmond as a “team player.”

At a news conference Tuesday in New Orleans, Mr. Richmond vowed to “offer advice to the president when he wants it, maybe sometimes when he doesn’t want it.”

Like Mr. Biden, Mr. Richmond had relatively moderate instincts on some of the most urgent political issues of the 2020 campaign — and his appointment drew an immediate rebuke from the Sunrise Movement, a group of progressive climate activists. His relationships extend across the spectrum of the Democratic caucus as well as across the aisle, and include his fellow Louisianian, Representative Steve Scalise, the Republican whip.

“His political skills get overshadowed by his baseball skills,” joked Representative Tim Ryan, Democrat of Ohio, referring to Mr. Richmond’s status as a star of the congressional baseball game.

Mr. Richmond, 47, a New Orleans native who attended Morehouse College and Tulane Law School, brings generational and racial diversity to Mr. Biden’s tight-knit inner circle. He is also a close ally of Representative James E. Clyburn, the majority whip, whose endorsement of Mr. Biden in South Carolina played a central role in revitalizing Mr. Biden’s nearly moribund campaign for the Democratic nomination.

During the primaries, Mr. Richmond was a vocal defender of Mr. Biden even in rough periods, but was also capable of the occasional frank assessment of the campaign’s challenges. In the general election, Mr. Richmond was an important point of contact for his fellow members of Congress, holding Zoom meetings with House Democrats in key battleground states.

Mr. Richmond would have faced an uncertain future remaining in conservative Louisiana if he had wanted to run statewide. And with Representative Hakeem Jeffries of New York a leading contender to succeed Speaker Nancy Pelosi and become the first Black American to lead the House, Mr. Richmond’s calculation was plainly that he could have the most influence in the White House.

It may seem an unusual trajectory for somebody who has been in elected office since he was in his 20s, but it hardly came as a surprise in a city known for its canny politicians.

Addressing reporters, supporters and a handful of potential successors on Tuesday, Mr. Richmond vowed to keep delivering for a state that, even before the pandemic devastated the tourist economy, had some of the worst health and education outcomes in the country.

“When you talk about the needs of Louisiana, you want somebody in the West Wing,” he said, adding that he’ll remain “New Orleans through and through.”

He promised to play an “active role” in the special election to replace him in his safely Democratic district, a race that is expected to spotlight the byzantine local rivalries and alliances Mr. Richmond has navigated since his first campaign for state representative two decades ago.

In a brief interview after his news conference, he went further, saying he would “probably” make an endorsement in the race after the holidays. “It’ll be a battle,” he said.

Meantime, Mr. Richmond, a chairman of Mr. Biden’s transition team, has plenty of his own governing battles to wage.

“I told him, I hope he got a few good nights’ sleep,” Mr. Ryan said. “He’s not going to get another one for at least four years.”

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