In a statement, Jeffries paid tribute to Pelosi but did not mention her plans to seek the leadership job, although the move has been widely reported. Pelosi “is the most accomplished Speaker in American history and our country is better for her extraordinary leadership.” He later called her “a steady hand on the hammer during some of the most turbulent times the nation has ever faced.”
Jeffries, in a nod to their historic rise in the DPR, added: “Speakers often remind us that our diversity is our strength. I know we will draw on that wisdom when we come together as a Caucus to start a new chapter.
One of Pelosi’s longtime colleagues, House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer (D-Md.), announced that he would also step down from the leadership post. Jeffries is expected to be joined by Reps. Katherine M. Clark (D-Mass.) and Pete Aguilar (D-Calif.), who will seek the No. 2 and No. 3 positions, respectively.
Rep. James E. Clyburn (D.S.C.) will leave his post as House majority whip but become assistant leader, a position that will now be fourth in the leadership structure.
Jeffries, a lawyer, hails from central Brooklyn, New York’s center of Democratic power. He’s a self-described progressive who has forged ties with Democratic figures in Washington while navigating the left’s surge in his own backyard.
He took office in 2013 and has been the chairman of the House Democratic Caucus, a leadership post, since 2019. In that role, he has been the youngest member of the leadership.
With moves on Thursday, House Democrats were on the cusp of significant generational change – from octogenarians such as Pelosi, Hoyer and Clyburn, to Jeffries; Clark, 59; and Aguilar, 43. The leadership election is the week of November 28, and the party appears to be united behind the new slate.
In an interview with The Atlantic last year, Jeffries explained where he fits in today’s political landscape, saying, “I’m a progressive Black Democrat who is concerned about addressing racial and social and economic injustice with the urgency of today.” He added, “There will never be a time where I bend the knee to left-wing democratic socialism.”
Jeffries, a graduate of the State University of New York in Binghamton, Georgetown and New York University Law School, was first elected to the New York State Assembly in 2006, after failing to challenge a Democratic incumbent favored by the Brooklyn Democratic machine, Roger Green. After Jeffries lost his earlier challenge to Green, Democratic lawmakers quickly redrawn his congressional district to exclude Jeffries’ home at the time.
A blatant move to block young political talent, sought to become the subject of a 2010 documentary on gerrymandering. In the film, Jeffries was a reform-minded politician challenging the establishment.
Jeffries was elected to Congress in 2012 after longtime Rep. Ed Towns abruptly announced that he would not seek reelection. Jeffries was expected to win after Towns’ death but suddenly faced a primary challenge from Charles Barron, a Black Panther and longtime New York official. Fears that Brooklyn might send Barron to Congress led to a national effort by establishment Democrats to support Jeffries, which proved successful.
Once in Congress, Jeffries represented not only a mixture of liberal and political establishment, but also the youth of Brooklyn swagger.
He once paid tribute to the murdered rapper from his district, Christopher Wallace, better known as the Notorious BIG Jeffries whom Wallace called “the classic embodiment of the American Dream.”
He called several stage names of rappers in 2017, adding: “Biggie Smalls, Frank White, the king of New York. He died 20 years ago today in a tragedy that happened in Los Angeles. But his words live forever.”
Then Jeffries rapped the lyrics of one of the rapper’s most famous songs, “Juicy”: “It’s all a dream / I used to read Word Up magazine / Salt-N-Pepa and Heavy D up in a limousine / Hangin’ pictures on my wall / Every Saturday Rap Attack, Mr. Magic, Marley Marl.
In 2015, Jeffries considered running for mayor of New York City, as the Democratic mayor at the time, Bill de Blasio, failed to deliver on his campaign promise of wholesale changes to the city’s widely criticized policing tactics.
In 2020, Jeffries served as impeachment manager in President Donald Trump’s first impeachment trial, a reflection of Pelosi’s trust in him.
Jeffries also helps hone Democrats’ message as he often hits the campaign trail and is available for interviews with reporters.
In 2020, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) called on Joe Biden to suspend his presidential campaign during Trump’s Senate hearings. When a reporter asked Jeffries about McCarthy’s comments, Jeffries, writing for the New York Times, simply replied, “Who?”
If elected Democratic leader, Jeffries will find himself tangled with McCarthy, who is seeking speakership in the Republican-controlled House of Representatives next year.