Rep. Hakeem Jeffries of New York on Friday officially has tossed his name into the race to replace Nancy Pelosi as Democratic House leader, writing a letter to colleagues asking for their support.
“When I initially sought the position of Chair of the House Democratic Caucus two terms ago, none of us could have predicted the challenges the American people would confront in the years to come,” Jeffries wrote. “However, time and time again, throughout a period of enormous turmoil for our nation, House Democrats rose to the occasion.
“Today, I write to humbly ask for your support for the position of House Democratic Leader as we once again prepare to meet the moment.”
Jeffries, 52, could make history as the first Black lawmaker to lead a party in Congress. A former state assemblyman and corporate lawyer, Jeffries has chaired the House Democratic caucus since 2019.
Pelosi announced Thursday that she will step back from House leadership after two decades as the chamber’s top Democrat.
In a speech on the House floor, Pelosi said the “hour’s come for a new generation to lead the Democratic caucus that I so deeply respect.”
Jeffries is the perceived frontrunner to succeed Pelosi.
Jeffries, who first arrived on Capitol Hill in 2013, received a big boost on Thursday, when current Majority Leader Steny Hoyer — Pelosi’s second in command — endorsed him.
New York Democrats who spoke with Spectrum News NY1 are were rallying around him Thursday.
“From the Hispanic caucus to the Progressive Caucus, to the Blue Dogs and the New Dems — Hakeem’s going to make sure everyone’s voices are part of the conversation,” said Rep. Jamaal Bowman, who represents The Bronx and Westchester County.
“Even though he’s often the smartest person in the room, he is a listener and he listens intently to the concerns of every member,” said Bronx Rep. Ritchie Torres.
If elected to replace Pelosi, Jeffries would make history as the first Black politician to lead a party on Capitol Hill.
Jeffries’s potential ascendency would further bolster New York’s influence in Washington. With Sen. Chuck Schumer expected to stay on as Senate majority leader, the Democratic coalition in both chambers of Congress would be led by a Brooklynite.
Jeffries is on record several times criticizing and challenging the “extreme left.” Asked if Jeffries will be able to appease that wing of the party, Bowman — a member of the Squad — said, “There’s going to be some fights and some conversations, but that’s what’s supposed to happen. That’s the point of democracy, that’s the point of the Democratic Party.”
House Democrats will reportedly hold their leadership elections in the week following Thanksgiving.