Political News

Jeffries to run for Democratic caucus chair

Posted November 8, 2018 10:05 a.m. EST

— Rep. Hakeem Jeffries announced Thursday he will run for chair of the House Democratic caucus, jumping into a leadership race that's already well underway with two other members.

The New York Democrat, a member of the Congressional Black Caucus, will compete for what will be the No. 5 ranked spot in Democratic leadership under the majority next Congress.

He will run against Rep. Barbara Lee, another member of the CBC, and Rep. Linda Sanchez, the current vice-chair of the Democratic caucus. Both members announced their campaigns this summer.

"Through my personal and professional journey, I am equipped to represent all of the philosophical wings of the wonderfully diverse House Democratic Caucus," Jeffries wrote in a letter to colleagues announcing his intentions.

Jeffries, 48, has only been in Congress for three terms, but he's quickly built a large profile through media appearances and relationships across the caucus, including with some Republicans on and off the Hill, like Jared Kushner, while working on criminal justice reform.

The announcement comes amid speculation among members and aides that Jeffries would be among the top contenders to run for speaker of the House if there were to be a vacancy at the top.

His supporters privately make the case he could be the first African-American speaker, arguing his dynamic style and rhetoric could make a formidable attack dog against President Donald Trump. Others, however, have been pushing for Assistant Democratic Leader James Clyburn to become the first African-American speaker.

His announcement comes after House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi formally declared her bid for speaker Wednesday night. While she's the heavy favorite to win, she faces pushback from a small group of critics determined to make sure she doesn't get the speakership.

That contingency of members had hoped Jeffries would challenge her for speaker, but his decision to run for caucus chair removes a possible opponent from that race.

Jeffries, as a co-chair of the House Democratic Policy & Communications Committee, which comes up with messaging for the caucus, has already worked closely with the highest ranks of leadership.

Outgoing Rep. Joe Crowley of New York is the current chairman of the House Democratic Caucus and was considered a likely contender to run for speaker if there was an opening at the top. He was defeated in his primary this summer.