Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (N.Y.) on Friday formally announced his bid to replace Speaker Nancy Pelosi (Calif.) at the top of the Democratic Party in the House next year, one day after the longtime leader said she would step out of that position in the next Congress.
Jeffries, the chair of the House Democratic Caucus, has long been eyeing a run to replace Pelosi as the leader of House Democrats when she stepped down. If he succeeds, as expected, he would become the first Black leader of either party, in either chamber, in the history of Congress.
To launch his bid, Jeffries sent a four-page letter to colleagues Friday morning outlining his goals for the caucus as it heads into the next Congress as the minority party.
“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. However, time and time again, throughout a period of enormous turmoil for our nation, House Democrats rose to the occasion,” Jeffries wrote.
“Today, I write to humbly ask you for your support for the position of House Democratic Leader as we once again prepare to meet the moment,” he added.
Jeffries is one of three up-and-coming Democratic leaders who have been eyeing a chance to move up the leadership ranks whenever the opportunity emerged. With Pelosi stepping down on Thursday, and her two deputies — Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (Md.) and Democratic Whip James Clyburn (S.C.) — following close behind, the path was clear for them to do so.
Rep. Katherine Clark (D-Mass.), currently the fourth-ranking House Democrat, launched her bid on Friday to move up to the No. 2 whip spot in the next Congress. And Rep. Pete Aguilar (Calif.), the sixth-ranking vice chair of the caucus, is vying to replace Jeffries as caucus chairman.
In his own letter to Democrats on Friday, Aguilar emphasized that he is the only member of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus in the highest ranks of the party — and he wants the group to be represented in the next Congress as well.
Aguilar’s decision to jump into the caucus chairman race was a late surprise, and it pits him against Rep. Joe Neguse (D-Colo.), who like Jeffries and Clyburn is a member of the Congressional Black Caucus.
The unexpected challenge for the No. 3 slot came after Clyburn delivered a surprise of his own: Unlike Pelosi and Hoyer, who stepped down from leadership altogether, he’s vying to remain as the assistant leader — the same spot Aguilar was initially thought to be seeking.
Clyburn’s endorsement of Joe Biden in South Carolina during the 2020 Democratic presidential primary was crucial to Biden securing the nomination. And in a letter to Democrats, he reminded his colleagues of that episode while touting his long experience in the leadership ranks.
Jeffries gave a hat-tip to the outgoing “big three” in his letter announcing his bid for Democratic leader, underscoring the “invaluable opportunity” he had to learn from Pelosi, Hoyer and Clyburn.
“I am thankful for the invaluable opportunity I have had to learn from legendary figures like our iconic Speaker Nancy Pelosi, our resolute Leader Steny Hoyer and our historic Majority Whip James E. Clyburn, who has mentored and nurtured my leadership development the moment I arrived in Congress,” Jeffries wrote.
The New York Democrat said his candidacy for the top House Democrat is based on three operating principles: empowering every member, prioritizing lawmaker security and reclaiming the majority.
As part of the second prong, he proposed creating a “Task Force on Member Safety” to document challenges and experiences members and their families have faced, as well as a set of steps to address the issues.
He said such a group is necessary after the violent assault on Paul Pelosi, the husband of Nancy Pelosi, at their San Francisco home last month, and the shootings of House Republican Whip Steve Scalise (La.) and former Rep. Gabby Giffords (D-Ariz.).
Updated at 11:24 a.m.