Democrats are rallying behind Jeffries of New York to succeed Pelosi as House leader

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(Bloomberg) — House Democrats quickly rallied behind Brooklyn native Hakeem Jeffries as their next leader to succeed Speaker Nancy Pelosi after she announced Thursday that she was stepping down.

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“He has demonstrated the ability to listen, to lead, and to do so with effectiveness and empathy,” said Minnesota Rep. Dean Phillips, who is pushing among Democrats for a new generation of leaders who will represent the young and diverse voice of the Democratic Party. party more accurately.

Jeffries, 52, would be the first black party leader in Congress and has long been seen as Pelosi’s heir apparent.

He has not yet formally announced his candidacy for the top spot when the Democrats elect their leaders at the end of this month. But Pelosi’s decision to step down while remaining in Congress sparked a cascade of changes at the top of the Democrat House hierarchy that paved his way.

Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, 83, the second-largest House Democrat, and Majority Whip James Clyburn, 82, the No. 3 Democrat, both endorsed Jeffries for the top job.

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“Now is the time for a new generation of leaders, and I am proud to offer my strong support to Hakeem Jeffries for Democratic leadership,” Hoyer said in a statement.

Representative Joyce Beatty of Ohio said she expects the influential Congressional Black Caucus, of which she chairs, to also fully support Jeffries.

Other Democrats expected to seek leadership roles include Massachusetts Representative Katherine Clark, 59, the chamber’s fourth Democrat; California Representative Pete Aguilar, 43; and Representative Joe Neguse of Colorado, who is 38. Washington Representative Pramila Jayapal, 57, the chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, also said she might seek an executive position.

Jeffries was elected to a sixth term last week with more than 70% of the vote in his district, which includes parts of Brooklyn and Queens. While some Democrats have expressed concern that the party needs to win back support from Central America, its ascent would put two New Yorkers at the Democratic helm in both chambers of Congress. Chuck Schumer is the Senate Majority Leader.

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Once dubbed “The Barack of Brooklyn,” a reference to former President Barack Obama’s broad appeal, Jeffries often makes cerebral and scholarly arguments laced with occasional pop culture references. He has used lyrics by the late rapper and Brooklyn native, the Notorious BIG, to make points on the House floor and in the first impeachment trial of President Donald Trump.

Social and economic issues have been a large part of Jeffries’ legislative repertoire, including housing and criminal justice. While a member of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, Jeffries has also maintained relationships with the corporate world, including New York’s financial sector. He also had to iron out tensions with the party’s most liberal members over defending moderate incumbents against progressive primary challenges.

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Jeffries currently serves as the chairman of the House Democratic caucus, technically fifth in leadership. Yet after Pelosi, he has increasingly become a chief spokesperson for House Democrats, throwing punches at House GOP leader Kevin McCarthy, Trump and other Republicans.

He has also traveled to fundraise and campaign for Democratic peers. He is now expected to reel in some of those political chits.

Representative Matt Cartwright of Pennsylvania, who just won re-election in a district that favored Trump, called Jeffries a “good friend” and the “candidate favorite” to succeed Pelosi. “He has been a phenomenal caucus chairman. I can’t think of a single misstep he’s made. So I think he’s ready,” Cartwright said.

Phillips, who has pushed for changes to internal party rules to elevate younger members, said Jeffries “represents not only our caucus, but the United States of America in a really exciting way.”

–With help from Emily Wilkins.

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