Congressman Launches Bid to Replace Pelosi as Top House Democrat

Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.) has announced a bid for the top Democrat position in the 118th Congress, which would make him the successor to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

Jeffries, 52, the chairman of the House Democratic Caucus, announced his bid on Nov. 18 in a letter to Democrat colleagues (pdf).

Democrats are projected to be in the minority starting January 2023, when new members are being sworn in, after Republicans flipped key seats in the midterm elections.

If elected minority leader, Jeffries said, “I hope to lead an effort that centers our communication strategy around the messaging principle that values unite, issues divide.”

Issues have indeed divided Democrats over the course of the 117th Congress, with feuds between the progressive and moderate wings of the party having broken out regularly.

“We must make sure that the perception of the Democratic brand matches up with the reality that we do in fact authentically share values that unite the Heartland, Urban America, Rural America, Suburban America and Small Town America,” Jeffries stated.

“This undertaking will not be easy. We must show up early and in unexpected places. It will require the involvement, creativity and input of every single House Democrat to be successful. Together, we can make it happen.”

Jeffries concluded: “I am grateful for the confidence that you have placed in me as the Caucus Chair during such tumultuous times. Building upon my leadership experience and our shared journey, I look forward to creating a better future together for all Americans and humbly ask for your support.”

Jeffries announced his bid after Pelosi announced that she would seek no leadership roles during the 118th Congress.

“A new day is dawning—and I am confident that these new leaders will capably lead our Caucus and the Congress,” Pelosi said in a statement on Friday.

As chairman of the Democratic caucus, Jeffries currently is the fourth top Democrat in the lower chamber.

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) also said he would not seek a leadership role in the next Congress, while House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn (D-S.C.)  hinted he would follow suit.

Clyburn later said he’d seek the role of assistant Democratic Caucus leader.

Jeffries has been endorsed by Pelosi, Hoyer, and Clyburn. No challenger has emerged as of yet.

Rep. Katherine Clark (D-Mass.), 59, the assistant speaker, also announced Friday she’d seek the whip position, or the number 2 House Democrat slot. Rep. Pete Aguilar (D-Calif.), 43, the current caucus vice chair, said he would seek to replace Jeffries.

The House Democrat leadership vote is slated to take place on Nov. 30.

Epoch Times Photo
Epoch Times Photo
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), left, listens to House Democratic Caucus Chair Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.) in Washington on Nov. 17, 2022. (Olivier Douliery/AFP via Getty Images)

Generational Change

Pelosi, Hoyer, and Clyburn—all 82 or 83—have been in power for years, with Pelosi becoming a senior party leader in 2003, Hoyer joining the year later, and Clyburn joining in 2007.

Younger Democrats have been agitating for change at the top. The caucus includes three of the five youngest members of Congress—including Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), Sara Jacobs (D-Calif.), and Ritchie Torres (D-N.Y.).

The average age of House Democrats is 59 years old according to data from FiscalNote, and tensions have grown among the generations in recent years.

Generational fractures between the party’s old guard and new Democrats first emerged as early as 2018, when Democrats extracted a pledge from Pelosi that she would not serve as speaker again. She later reneged on that promise, and was reelected speaker in the 117th Congress.

Pelosi announced after Democrats’ better-than-expected midterm performance that the time had come for her to honor that past promise.

“Scripture teaches us that for everything there is a season, a time for every purpose under heaven,” Pelosi said on the House floor in Washington.

“For me, the hour’s 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,” she added.

Joseph Lord

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Joseph Lord is a congressional reporter for The Epoch Times.

Zachary Stieber

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Zachary Stieber covers U.S. and world news for The Epoch Times. He is based in Maryland.

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