Rep. Hakeem Jeffries of New York was elected the next Democratic House leader on Wednesday, making history as the first black lawmaker to lead a political party’s caucus.
The 52-year-old Jeffries was elected in a unanimous vote, ushering in a generational shift as Democrats prepare to relinquish control of the House in January. Jeffries will take over for Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who has served as the House Democratic leader since 2003, and announced earlier this month she would not seek leadership next session.
“This is a moment of transition,” Jeffries told a small group of reporters in the Capitol on Tuesday night. “We stand on the shoulders of giants, but are also looking forward to being able to do what’s necessary at this moment to advance the issues.”
Jeffries’ top deputy will be Rep. Katherine Clark, D-Mass., 59, who served under Jeffries as vice chair of the Democratic Caucus and rose to assistant speaker in this Congress.
Rep. Pete Aguilar, D-Calif., 43, a Congressional Hispanic Caucus member and former mayor was elected Democratic Caucus chairman — the role Jeffries has held for the past four years.
The trio represents a generational shift for Democrats, who are currently led by a trio in their 80s.
Jeffries, whose district encompasses large parts of his native Brooklyn, was first elected to Congress in 2012 and steadily ascended the party ranks.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer called Jeffries’ election a “turning point” in the history of the United States Congress.
“It’s not surprising that House Democrats are turning to someone from Brooklyn to lead the way next year, because when you’re from Brooklyn, you learn quickly traits like persistence and serious mettle. It’s a crowded place and a diverse place. You learn how to work with all kinds of different people. You learn how to stand your ground. You learn to not take things personally,” said Schumer.
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