Nov 18, 2022 - Politics & Policy

Hakeem Jeffries launches bid for House Dem leader

Reps. Katherine Clark, wearing a pink suit jacket over a black shirt, and Hakeem Jeffries, wearing a blue suit jacket, light blue shirt and pink tie, speak at a press conference.

Reps. Katherine Clark (D-Mass.) and Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.). Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.), the chair of the House Democratic Caucus, on Friday formally announced his bid to succeed House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-N.Y.) as the House Democratic leader.

The big picture: Jeffries, a Brooklyn native and former New York state legislator, would be the first Black leader of a party in Congress.

  • He is seen by colleagues as the overwhelming favorite to take over — and there is doubt about whether he will face even token opposition.

Assistant speaker Katherine Clark (D-Mass.) and Caucus Vice Chair Pete Aguilar (D-Calif.) are vying for the Nos. 2 and 3 spots.

  • "No, not of those three. Not at all," Rep. Annie Kuster (D-N.H.) told Axios when asked if she expected contested elections for the top three roles.
  • The leadership elections are scheduled for Nov. 30.

Driving the news: Jeffries sent out a letter to colleagues on Friday outlining his case for minority leader.

  • "As we prepare to temporarily relinquish the gavels, House Democrats will be locked in a fierce governmental, political and messaging struggle," Jeffries said of Democrats' impending minority status.
  • "In this regard, our Caucus must unify with purpose, communicate with discipline, legislate with precision and partner with the Biden Administration to vigorously address the continuing challenges impacting our constituents."
  • Clark and Aguilar also announced their runs for minority whip and caucus chair respectively on Friday in "dear colleague" letters.

Zoom in: Rep. Jim Clyburn (D-S.C.), the 82-year-old Democratic whip, said in a letter obtained by Axios' Alexi McCammond that he will run for assistant Democratic leader, asking colleagues "for your support to remain at the leadership table."

  • Pelosi and House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) are staying in Congress as well, though neither is taking on an emeritus leadership position.

What they're saying: Pelosi released a statement blessing the new troika and casting their ascension as a done deal: "In the 118th Congress, House Democrats will be led by a trio that reflects our beautiful diversity of our nation."

  • "Chair Jeffries, Assistant Speaker Clark and Vice Chair Aguilar know that, in our Caucus, diversity is our strength and unity is our power," she said.
  • Rep. Seth Moulton (D-Mass.), who in 2018 helped lead a short-lived effort to block Pelosi from becoming speaker, also put out a statement endorsing Jeffries: "My respect for him is deep and earned quietly over time, and I expect the American people will experience the same."

By the numbers: If elected, Jeffries, 52, Clark, 59, and Aguilar, 43, will lower the average age of the top three Democratic leaders from 83 to 51.

Editor's note: This article has been updated to remove a quote from Rep. Jamaal Bowman floating the idea of a progressive challenger to Aguilar. Bowman was not aware that Aguilar had confirmed he was running and was speaking in generalities, according to his office.

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