Democrats elect African American as leader of their House caucus

Washington: Democratic members of the US House of Representatives elected Hakeem Jeffries as their leader Wednesday, making him the first African American to get that job.

Jeffries will succeed Nancy Pelosi and he will assume the title of Minority Leader when the new congress starts in January 3.

Jeffries is 52 and his election — by acclamation — was marked by a generational shift in the Democratic party leadership.

Katherine Clark, 58, is the new party whip, chief counter of votes, and Pete Aguilar, 43, will head the party caucus in charge of messaging. All three replace colleagues in their late 70s and 80s.

“Congratulations to Leader-designate Hakeem Jeffries, Whip-designate Katherine M. Clark and Chairman-designate Pete Aguilar!” Pelosi said in a statement.

“Together, this new generation of leaders reflects the vibrancy and diversity of our great nation — and they will reinvigorate our Caucus with their new energy, ideas and perspective.”

Pelosi led House Democrats for two decades, which included stints as the first woman to hold the post of speaker of the House, which put her second in line to the presidency after the vice-president. She saw out four presidents and clashed bitterly with one of them – former US President Donald Trump.

At age 82, Pelosi was under increasing pressure from within the Democratic party to make way for someone younger.

She announced stepping from the top party position some days, but added she will continue to be a member of the House, where she represents San Francisco, California.

Jeffries is a lawyer from Brooklyn, New York and has described himself a progressive, belonging to a particularly liberal group within the Democratic party (which also includes Indian Americans Pramila Jayapal and Ro Khanna). He was first elected to the House in 2013 and since 2019 has held the position of the chair of the Democratic caucus.

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