In a surprising move, House Majority Whip James Clyburn has endorsed Rep. Barbara Lee in the California Senate race, breaking with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi who has endorsed Secretary of State Alex Padilla.
Clyburn, who is a prominent figure in the Democratic Party and a close ally of Pelosi, announced his endorsement of Lee on Monday, citing her progressive record and commitment to social justice issues.
“Barbara Lee has been a tireless advocate for the people of California and a champion for progressive causes,” Clyburn said in a statement. “She has been a leader in the fight for racial justice, economic equality, and environmental protection. I am proud to endorse her candidacy for the United States Senate.”
Lee, who has represented California’s 13th congressional district since 1998, is known for her progressive stances on issues such as healthcare, immigration, and criminal justice reform. She was the only member of Congress to vote against the Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF) in 2001, which authorized the use of military force against those responsible for the 9/11 attacks.
Pelosi, on the other hand, has endorsed Padilla, who was appointed by Governor Gavin Newsom to fill the Senate seat vacated by Vice President Kamala Harris. Padilla, who previously served as California’s Secretary of State, has been a loyal ally of the Democratic establishment and has been endorsed by several high-profile Democrats, including Senator Dianne Feinstein and former President Barack Obama.
The endorsement by Clyburn is seen as a significant boost for Lee’s campaign, which has struggled to gain traction in a crowded field that includes several other prominent Democrats, including State Senator Kevin de LeÃ³n and former Congressman Doug Ose.
Lee thanked Clyburn for his endorsement, saying that she was “honored and humbled” to have his support.
“I have long admired Congressman Clyburn’s leadership and his commitment to social justice and equality,” Lee said in a statement. “I look forward to working with him to advance our shared vision for a more just and equitable society.”
The California Senate race is expected to be one of the most closely watched races in the 2022 midterm elections, as Democrats seek to maintain their slim majority in the Senate. With Clyburn’s endorsement, Lee’s campaign is likely to gain momentum and could potentially upset the Democratic establishment’s preferred candidate, Padilla.