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Jeffries joins Dem leadership race to replace Crowley

Jeffries joins Dem leadership race to replace Crowley
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Rep. Hakeem JeffriesHakeem Sekou JeffriesDemocrats seek staffer salary boost to compete with K Street Congress tiptoes back to normality post-pandemic White House to Democrats: Get ready to go it alone on infrastructure MORE (D-N.Y.) on Thursday joined the race to become the fifth-ranking House Democrat next year, throwing his hat in the ring to replace outgoing Caucus Chairman Joseph Crowley (D-N.Y.).

Jeffries will face off against two California Democrats who have already announced bids for the seat: Reps. Linda SanchezLinda Teresa SánchezRep. Sanchez: Not appropriate for reporters to see inside border facilities for children Democrats move smaller immigration bills while eyeing broad overhaul Biden should emphasize immigration enforcement MORE and Barbara LeeBarbara Jean LeeOvernight Defense: House votes to repeal 2002 Iraq war powers | Pentagon leaders press senators to reimburse National Guard | New pressure on US-Iran nuclear talks House votes to repeal 2002 Iraq war powers Overnight Defense: Biden, Putin agree to launch arms control talks at summit | 2002 war authorization repeal will get Senate vote | GOP rep warns Biden 'blood with be on his hands' without Afghan interpreter evacuation MORE.

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In a letter to fellow Democrats, Jeffries, currently one of the leaders of the party’s messaging arm, said he’ll be a voice for diversity in a heterogeneous caucus and fight to build on the Democrats’ recent election successes under the turbulent reign of President TrumpDonald TrumpWhite House denies pausing military aid package to Ukraine Poll: 30 percent of GOP voters believe Trump will 'likely' be reinstated this year Black Secret Service agent told Trump it was offensive to hold rally in Tulsa on Juneteenth: report MORE.

“During the 116th Congress, it will be critical for House Democrats to keep pressing our case as the tip of the spear against the right-wing onslaught in this country,” he wrote. “We want to move the country forward. They want to turn back the clock.”

First elected in 2012, Jeffries is seen as a rising star among House Democrats. Along with Reps. Cheri BustosCheryl (Cheri) Lea BustosTo reverse the teaching shortage in low-income communities, give educators incentive to stay Democrats confront difficult prospects for midterms Democrat Cheri Bustos to retire from Congress MORE (D-Ill.) and David CicillineDavid CicillineHillicon Valley: House targets tech giants with antitrust bills | Oversight chair presses JBS over payment to hackers | Trump spokesman to join tech company | YouTube suspends GOP senator House unveils antitrust package to rein in tech giants On the Money: Tech giants face rising pressure from shareholder activists | House Democrats urge IRS to reverse Trump-era rule reducing donor disclosure | Sen. Warren, Jamie Dimon spar over overdraft fees at Senate hearing MORE (D-R.I.), Jeffries was elected to lead the Democratic Policy and Communications Committee (DPCC) following the 2016 elections. And he’s been a poised and reliable voice for the party, one who frequently appears on the cable news shows to advance the Democrats’ message and push back against the GOP agenda.

His bid for the chairmanship complicates a race within a caucus where identity politics is frequently a crucial, if unspoken, factor in deciding leadership spots.

Lee and Jeffries are both members of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC), which boasts almost 50 members who will now have to choose a side, likely splitting the group. In running against Sanchez, they face a former chairwoman of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, who will have wide support within that 30-member coalition.

In the “Year of the Woman” — when female voters and candidates were crucial to flipping the House for the Democrats in Tuesday’s midterm elections — Jeffries faces an additional obstacle in challenging two minority women for the No. 5 leadership spot.

One Democratic aide said it’s “ludicrous” for Jeffries to think he can win in the current political environment.

“If 2018 is the ‘Year of the Woman,’ the optics don’t work,” the aide said.

Jeffries sees a different landscape. He’s touting his role atop the DPCC, saying it’s helped him tap into the concerns of voters and caucus members alike. While emphasizing his “pro-union progressive” bonafides, he’s also promising “to represent all of the philosophical wings” of the diverse caucus.

“The values I bring to the House Democratic Caucus Chair position are anchored in my upbringing in a working-class, union household in a tough Brooklyn neighborhood,” he wrote in his letter.

Like Sanchez and Lee, he is also vowing to promote a wider dispersal of power within a top-heavy caucus that’s been steered by the same three leaders for more than a decade — a message with broad appeal among the swelling number of Democrats fighting for a louder voice within the group, particularly newer members.

“It is essential that every member has meaningful policymaking and public engagement opportunities regardless of length of service,” he wrote.

Regional factors also might play a role in the contest. Lee and Sanchez, both representing districts in California, will likely split allegiances in the state boasting the most Democratic members. And the shocking primary defeat of Crowley has cut New York out of the leadership ranks, increasing the hunger among Empire State lawmakers to have a seat at the table.

“I think he pulls it out,” said a second Democratic leadership aide. “But it’s a tough race.”

Updated at 10:22 a.m.