Jeffries joins Dem leadership race to replace Crowley

Jeffries joins Dem leadership race to replace Crowley
© Getty Images

Rep. Hakeem JeffriesHakeem Sekou JeffriesHouse Democrats delete tweets attacking each other, pledge to unify Democratic staffer says Wendy Davis will run for Congress The House Democrats who voted to kill impeachment effort 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 SánchezFirst major 'Medicare for All' hearing sharpens attacks on both sides We can accelerate a cure for Alzheimer's Dems press Mnuchin on Trump tax returns MORE and Barbara LeeBarbara Jean LeeHere are the 95 Democrats who voted to support impeachment Democrats ask Labor Department to investigate Amazon warehouses Congress, stop ducking war-declaration authority on Iran MORE.

ADVERTISEMENT

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 John TrumpCould Donald Trump and Boris Johnson be this generation's Reagan-Thatcher? Merkel backs Democratic congresswomen over Trump How China's currency manipulation cheats America on trade 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 BustosHouse Democrats' campaign arm raises over million in second quarter Lawmakers join Nats Park fundraiser for DC kids charity Democratic leaders seek balance amid liberal push to go big on immigration MORE (D-Ill.) and David CicillineDavid Nicola CicillineThe Hill's Morning Report: Trump walks back from 'send her back' chants Here are the 95 Democrats who voted to support impeachment House votes to kill impeachment effort against Trump 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.