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Who is Hakeem Jeffries, Pelosi’s likely successor as House Democratic leader?

The top three Democrats in the House are stepping aside to let a new generation take over party leadership with Hakeem Jeffries Pelosi’s likely replacement.

Hakeem Jeffries, Pelosi's heir apparent as House Democratic leader
Bill ClarkGetty

Nancy Pelosi has led the Democratic caucus in the House of Representatives for nearly two decades. She became the first woman Speaker of the House in 2007 and has served in that position over two four-year stints. Pelosi is considered one of the most effective Speakers in the history of the United States.

However, in recent years there have been calls for her to step aside to allow new and younger party members to take the reins. On Thursday, Pelosi told her colleagues that she will be stepping down as House Democratic leader.

“With great confidence in our caucus, I will not seek re-election to Democratic leadership in the next Congress,” Nancy Pelosi said Thursday. “For me, the hour has come for a new generation to lead the Democratic caucus that I so deeply respect. And I am grateful that so many are ready and willing to shoulder this awesome responsibility.”

Her announcement was followed by a statement from House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer of Maryland that he too would not seek elected leadership in the 118th Congress. While he didn’t directly say that he was stepping aside Majority Whip Jim Clyburn of South Carolina said he looks forward to “doing whatever I can to assist our new generation of Democratic Leaders which I hope to be Hakeem Jeffries, Katherine Clark, and Pete Aguilar.” It is expected that he will seek a lower-ranking position in the party leadership when House Democrats meet on 30 November to elect their leaders for the next Congress.

Who is Hakeem Jeffries, Pelosi’s likely successor as House Democratic leader?

Representative Hakeem Jeffries, 52, of New York ‘s 8th congressional district is widely seen as Pelosi’s likeliest successor as Democratic leader. He would definitely represent a generation change being three decades younger than all three of the current top three in leadership.

Since joining Congress in 2013 he has risen through the ranks attaining chairman of the Democratic caucus in 2019, technically the fifth-ranked position, becoming the youngest member serving in leadership. He has long been considered Pelosi´s heir apparent and since her announcement on Thursday members of the party have been rallying behind him.

Perhaps most importantly, the Congressional Black Caucus, an influential bloc of the Democratic party. The chairwoman of the group Representative Joyce Beatty believes that “every member of the Congressional Black Caucus would vote for Hakeem Jeffries.”

“The Barack of Brooklyn” has a reputation as a capable operator who like the former president often makes cerebral and scholarly arguments which he has a habit of injecting references from another Brooklyn native the late rapper Biggie Smalls into floor speeches.

Jefferies has worked on legislation to address social and economic issues, including bipartisan sentencing reform, a highlight of his record in Congress. He is a member of the Progressive Caucus but campaigned for more moderate Democrats against progressive primary challengers. He is also considered more centrist than Pelosi and last year he told The Atlantic “There will never be a moment where I bend the knee to hard-left democratic socialism.”