President-elect Joe Biden has been announcing appointments for his administration as he prepares to transition into the White House. Among them is Louisiana Rep. Cedric Richmond, who Biden announced as his new director of the White House Office of Public Engagement.
The White House Office of Public Engagement is part of the executive office. As the director, Richmond will be called on to build on his deep relationships with key political constituencies, Congress and Biden himself.
Here are 10 things to know about Cedric Richmond, Biden’s New Director of Public Engagement.
Cedric Richmond, 46, was born in New Orleans, Louisiana in 1973. His father died when he was 7 and his mother, a public school teacher and small business owner, did the best she could. He graduated from NOLA’s Benjamin Franklin High.
Richmond then went on to attend the prestigious HBCU Morehouse College in Atlanta, Georgia. He graduated with a bachelor of arts degree in 1995. He also played baseball while in college, serving as the pitcher for the Maroon Tigers. Richmond earned his law degree from Tulane University and was inducted into the school’s Hall of Fame in 2019.
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As the representative for Louisiana’s 2nd Congressional District, Richmond is the only Democrat to represent his state in Congress. He serves on the House Committee on House Ways and Means.
Richmond was elected to Louisiana’s state house in 2000 at age 27, making him one of the youngest in history to be elected to the state legislature. He was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 2010 and has been reelected subsequently since.
Though Richmond has not directly spoken on whether he is for or against cash payment reparations, he is a member of the Congressional Black Caucus, which is the driving force behind the HR 40 Bill – which would create a commission to study the topic.
He has advocated for policy change as first steps, reported the Washington Examiner.
“We could start by ending mandatory minimum sentences that have decimated the African American community that has far too many African American males in jail when there were better alternatives to incarceration,” Richmond told the Examiner. “We could start by removing the collateral consequences of incarceration so that when you come out of prison that you can go to college and receive government aid, and you could stay in public housing.”
Richmond has also said he supports reparations for Black Americans in some form, stopping short of advocating for cash payments.
“I think it’s a good idea, especially if it’s in the form of education or tuition or something like that. But sometimes you let the experts tell you what they think it should be,” Richmond told The Hill. “I think the commission is good because we need to see what the experts say would be the correct remedy.”
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Richmond served as the chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation from 2017 to 2019, elected to the role in November 2016.
When Biden was down fifth in the Democratic presidential primaries, Richmond emailed him this message: “If you really believe you’re fighting for the soul of the country, then go act like it.”
Respected South Carolina Congressman Jim Clyburn is a political mentor to Richmond.
“He has a great future. I am so pleased to have been a part of it,” Clyburn said on the 2020 Political War Roo” podcast with Carville and journalist Al Hunt.
Richmond and Biden share a close relationship. Richmond was named the first national co-chair of Biden’s presidential campaign.
He is credited with playing a critical role in Biden getting elected.
“This campaign feels a lot different than 2016 when it was data, data, data,” said political strategist Donna Brazile. “Cedric’s trying to figure out the ground game, how to do door-knocking safely, get the yard signs up, in addition to providing strategic advice. He’s on every call. He’s involved in every conversation. The vice president respects him enormously.”
Richmond had a run-in with hip-hop icon Ice Cube after Cube met with the Trump campaign to discuss POTUS’s contract with Black America. He asked Richmond to release the info from the Zoom call they had.
“The one thing Trump does very well is say the same thing over and over again,” Richmond said. “Most of the time, it’s a lie. But he says it over and over again, and people start to believe it. We have to continue to say over and over again that this president has destroyed and wrecked this economy, just like everything he has ever touched in his life.”
Richmond is one of the top recipients of donations from the oil, gas and chemicals industries in the Democratic House caucus, the Guardian newspaper reported in December 2019. He has been accused of paying little public attention to what may be the most pressing issue in Louisiana’s second congressional district – the continuing pollution by petrochemical and fossil fuel plants in the region.
Seven of the 10 most air-polluted census tracts in the U.S. are in Richmond’s district, according to EPA data. A proposed massive expansion of a plastics factory in his district could almost double the amount of toxic air pollution in the parish where it will be built.
“Analysis of Richmond’s news releases shows he has not mentioned air pollution in his district at any point during his tenure. An examination of congressional records, suggests he has not spoken about the issue in Congress,” according to the 2019 Guardian report.
Richmond will serve as a senior adviser to Biden and the director of the White House Office of Public Engagement, according to a Nov. 17 announcement.
This will make him be one of the highest-ranking Black officials in the Biden administration.
In a news conference, Richmond said he was sad to announce he’d be leaving Congress for his new White House appointment — “something I fought so hard to get … that means so much to me.”
“This new role will allow me to offer advice to the president when he wants it, maybe sometimes when he doesn’t want it,” Richmond said. “I will also be in an office in the West Wing. When you talk about the needs of Louisiana you want someone in the West Wing. … You can go from Osborne (Elementary) to the White House,” Richmond said.