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U.S. Rep. Diana DeGette, D-Denver.

Diana DeGette announced her bid Wednesday for the third highest post in the newly Democratic-controlled U.S. House.

The Denver lawmaker’s announcement will create an intra-party battle for the House majority whip position after South Carolina Rep. Jim Clyburn made clear he would seek to keep his current job.

U.S. Rep. Diana DeGette, D-Denver.

“This is an important moment for our caucus to move smartly on behalf of the American people,” DeGette wrote in a letter to her colleagues announcing her candidacy. “Together, we can protect American values and enact positive change for the country that rallies the public to our cause.”

DeGette, a 22-year House veteran, serves as the current chief deputy whip, an appointed position she’s held for seven terms, and touts her past leadership on “hot-button issues.”

She easily won re-election Tuesday for a 12th term in Colorado’s 1st Congressional District with more than 71 percent of the vote, according to preliminary results.

Her efforts to unseat Clyburn reflect a mood within the caucus for fresh leadership as Democrats take the House majority for the first time since losing it in the 2010 election.

Much of the talk about ousting current leaders is focused on Nancy Pelosi, the current Democratic leader who is vying for House speaker. But it extends to Steny Hoyer, the party’s No. 2 leader, and Clyburn, who is the highest-ranking black member of Congress.

In her letter, DeGette made an appeal to diversity as a reason to elevate her to the job. She would be only the second woman to hold the House majority whip position and the first from the Mountain West.

“Our return to the majority was powered by women voters across the country, and we need to repay their trust by adding women to Democrats’ leadership team,” DeGette said in a statement. “As we add even more women to our ranks in Congress—largely because of Democratic candidates—our caucus should reflect this strength, including at the leadership table.”

She added in the letter: “Our path to a lasting majority must include broadening the caucus’ geographic appeal.”

Clyburn said Wednesday morning he would campaign to keep his post and downplayed speculation that he would challenge Pelosi for House speaker. But McClatchy reports that he would “explore a promotion” if Pelosi doesn’t have the votes for the top job.

    John Frank is a former Colorado Sun staff writer. He left the publication in January 2021.