Representative Hakeem Jeffries of New York formally announced on Friday that he sought the role of Democratic leader, a bid that would make him the first Black man to hold the top party leadership role in either chamber of Congress.
With Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s announcement on Thursday that she would step back from leadership, Mr. Jeffries is now slated to set in motion a long-sought generational change at the top of the House Democratic caucus. The caucus is set to hold formal elections on Nov. 30 and Dec. 1.
“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,” Mr. Jeffries wrote in letters to each of his Democratic colleagues.
Mr. Jeffries has widely been seen as the clear successor to Ms. Pelosi, and received explicit backing from Representatives Steny H. Hoyer of Maryland, the majority leader, and James Clyburn of South Carolina, the majority whip, on Thursday, when the two men announced that they would also step back from their leadership positions.
Currently the fifth-ranking Democrat in the House, Mr. Jeffries has cultivated a reputation as a disciplined political messenger for his party as Democrats have clashed with former President Donald J. Trump and far-right Republicans. He served as an impeachment manager in Mr. Trump’s first trial in 2020, and helped champion a bipartisan federal sentencing overhaul early in the Trump administration.
A Brooklynite and former corporate lawyer who represents a plurality Black district, Mr. Jeffries also lives less than a mile from Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, the majority leader.
In his letter, Mr. Jeffries pledged to lead a caucus that is “fully empowered to work their will,” reflecting frustrations of some junior lawmakers that internal power has not been shared outside a small cluster of party leaders. With the party set, he said, to be “locked in a fierce governmental, political and messaging struggle” in the minority come January, Mr. Jeffries vowed to keep the caucus united behind a policy agenda that could propel them back into the majority.
He also proposed measures that would ensure the safety of individual lawmakers, including establishing a task force that would recommend “a complete set of legislative, administrative and executive steps” to address political violence. Lawmakers have increasingly raised concerns about being the targets of political violence in Washington and in their districts, particularly after Paul Pelosi, the speaker’s husband, was assaulted at their home in California.