House Democrats are preparing for a changing of the guard in the lower chamber in the wake of Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s (D-CA) Thursday announcement, and that of her deputies, that they will step aside so a new generation of Democrats can move up the ranks.
A trio of younger House lawmakers launched their bids on Friday and are widely expected to assume the spots. Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY) is the front-runner to replace Pelosi, while Katherine Clark (R-MA) and Pete Aguilar (D-CA) would serve in the No. 2 and No. 3 positions, respectively.
The three echoed one another in “Dear Colleague” letters they released to the Democratic caucus Friday morning. As the “next generation of leadership,” they insisted empowering the entire caucus would take priority, as would unity in a fractious conference that spans Blue Dog Democrats to members of the Progressive Caucus. The chief priority: fighting a Republican agenda.
“It has sometimes been said that the job of the majority is to govern, while the job of the minority is to get back into the majority. Given the dangerous and dysfunctional nature of the Extreme MAGA Republicans who will dominate the ranks of the other side of the aisle in the 118th Congress, we must do both,” Jeffries said.
The New York Democrat, who currently serves as the House Democratic Conference chairman, touted the success of the last four years and credited “legendary figures” like Pelosi, as well as her lieutenants, Minority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) and Majority Whip James E. Clyburn (D-SC), for preparing him for the role.
“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 again, throughout a period of enormous turmoil for our nation, House Democrats rose to the occasion,” Jeffries said.
Multiple Democratic lawmakers said it is unlikely that Jeffries will see a challenge, having long been seen as the heir apparent to the role after Pelosi stepped down.
The 52-year-old New Yorker is on a trajectory to make history as the first black leader of a party in Congress.
Clark, the assistant speaker, is currently running unopposed for whip. The Massachusetts Democrat has worked to garner strong relationships within the caucus, making a concerted effort to campaign for candidates and vulnerable members, and is known for being a fundraising powerhouse.
“Effective leadership is not about individual ambition, but our collective good. It is about truly listening and understanding what each member needs to be successful. I will use my voice at the leadership table to bring people and solutions together,” she wrote. “Time and time again, House Democrats have proven that when we stand together, we can overcome great obstacles and secure wins for the American people. It is an incredible honor to serve with you, and I look forward to discussing my candidacy and earning your support.”
Members of the caucus were quick to throw their support behind both Jeffries and Clark, signaling the lawmakers will coast into the roles with leadership elections slated to take place on Nov. 30.
While Pelosi and Hoyer opted to retire from the leadership ranks, Clyburn is looking to be the No. 4 House Democrat next year.
“I humbly ask for your support to remain at the leadership table as the Assistant Democratic Leader, to work alongside our new generation of Democratic Leaders which I hope to be Hakeem Jeffries, Katherine Clark, and Pete Aguilar,” he told his Democratic colleagues.
With Clyburn angling to become assistant Democratic leader, Aguilar has jumped into the race for House Democratic Caucus chairman. Rep. Joe Neguse (D-CO) previously announced he was seeking the caucus chairman role and is weighing his options following the California Democrat locking up strong support to succeed Jeffries.
As Pelosi gears up to pass the baton to a younger generation of leaders, she expressed confidence in Jeffries’s, Clark’s, and Aguilar’s ability to take the reins.
“In the 118th Congress, House Democrats will be led by a trio that reflects our beautiful diversity of our nation. Chair Jeffries, Assistant Speaker Clark and Vice Chair Aguilar know that, in our Caucus, diversity is our strength and unity is our power,” she said in a Friday statement. “A new day is dawning — and I am confident that these new leaders will capably lead our Caucus and the Congress.”