Over the past 10 years, Representative Cedric L. Richmond of Louisiana has represented most of New Orleans in Congress, led the Congressional Black Caucus, and has gradually established himself as one of the most black voices. leaders of Capitol Hill, a reputation he cemented when he joined President. -select the campaign of Joseph R. Biden Jr. as the first national co-chair.
He is now set to become one of the top black officials in the Biden administration.
Mr. Richmond, who maintains an extensive political network and is known for his outspoken advice, will be a senior advisor to Mr. Biden and the director of the White House Office of Public Engagement, roles that will enable him to rely on on his deep relationships. in Congress, with key political constituencies and with Mr. Biden himself.
“He’s going to give clear advice,” said Marc H. Morial, president of the National Urban League and former mayor of New Orleans, who has known Mr. Richmond from his days in the Louisiana state legislature. “He’s not a man, yes.
“This sends a very powerful signal to the black community that Cédric will be part of this core group,” added Mr. Morial, also describing Mr. Richmond as a “team player”.
At a press conference on Tuesday in New Orleans, Mr. Richmond promised “to offer advice to the president when he wants it, maybe sometimes when he doesn’t want it”.
Like Mr Biden, Mr Richmond had a relatively moderate instinct on some of the 2020 campaign’s most pressing political issues – and his appointment drew a reprimand Sunrise Movement, a group of progressive climate activists. His connections stretch across the spectrum of the Democratic caucus as well as the aisle, and includes fellow Louisiana, Rep. Steve Scalise, the Republican whip.
“His political skills are eclipsed by his baseball skills,” joked Rep. Tim Ryan, Democrat of Ohio, referring to Mr. Richmond’s status as the 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 inner circle. He is also a close ally of Representative James E. Clyburn, the Majority Whip, whose endorsement of Mr. Biden in South Carolina has been central in revitalizing Mr. Biden’s near-moribund campaign for the democratic nomination.
During the primaries, Mr. Richmond was a strong supporter of Mr. Biden, even in difficult times, but was also able to make an occasional candid assessment of the challenges of the campaign. During the general election, Mr. Richmond was an important point of contact for his fellow congressmen, arranging Zoom meetings with House Democrats in key battlefield states.
Mr. Richmond would have faced an uncertain future staying in conservative Louisiana if he had wanted to run statewide. And with Rep. Hakeem Jeffries of New York a prominent candidate to succeed President Nancy Pelosi and become the first black American to lead the House, Mr. Richmond’s calculation was clearly that he could have the most influence. to the White House.
It may seem like an unusual trajectory for someone who has been in office since their twenties, but it came as no surprise in a city known for its cunning politicians.
Speaking to reporters, supporters and a handful of potential successors on Tuesday, Richmond pledged to continue working for a state that, even before the pandemic devastated the tourist economy, had some of the worst results in the world. health and education.
“When you talk about the needs of Louisiana, you want someone in the West Wing,” he said, adding that he will stay “New Orleans until the end”.
He has vowed to play an “active role” in the special election to replace him in his safe Democratic district, a race that should shed light on the local Byzantine rivalries and alliances Mr. Richmond has sailed in since his first campaign. for the representative of the state two decades ago. .
In a brief interview after his press conference, he went further, saying he would “probably” make an endorsement in the race after the holidays. “It will be a battle,” he said.
In the meantime, Mr Richmond, a chairman of Mr Biden’s transition team, has many of his own government battles to wage.
“I told him, I hope he got a few good nights sleep,” Ryan said. “He’s not going to have another for at least four years.