New York Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, whom several Democratic colleagues view as a potential future speaker, narrowly won an intraparty contest for House Democratic Caucus chair Wednesday against California Rep. Barbara Lee.
The vote was 123-113.
Jeffries, who currently serves as one of three co-chairs of the Democratic Policy and Communications Committee, the caucus’s messaging arm, now ascends to the No. 5 leadership slot.
The caucus chair race was the first vote House Democrats took Wednesday in their leadership elections for the 116th Congress that are expected to last late into the evening and potentially into Thursday.
The remaining votes will be held in order of seniority of the positions: speaker, majority leader, majority whip, assistant leader, caucus vice chair, Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee chair, DPCC chair, three DPCC co-chairs, caucus representative for a member serving five or fewer terms and freshman caucus representative.
Jeffries and Lee are both members of the Congressional Black Caucus, and their contest provided a tough choice for their colleagues within that group.
The CBC traditionally values seniority — that’s even how the caucus lists its members on its website — and Lee has served seven terms more than Jeffries.
But several CBC members backing Jeffries said the opportunity for him to rise in leadership, potentially one day becoming the first black speaker, was among the reasons they voted for him.
Jeffries is seen as someone who fits the bill to head a new generation of leaders to replace the long-reigning trio of California’s Nancy Pelosi, Maryland’s Steny H. Hoyer and South Carolina’s James E. Clyburn.
Jeffries and Lee are also both members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, and Lee is a member of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus.
California Rep. Linda T. Sánchez, a former Congressional Hispanic Caucus chairwoman, had initially been running for caucus chair but dropped out of the race after her husband was indicted on theft and conspiracy charges related to spending corporate money on personal trips, including some he allegedly spent on her.
Leadership candidates are nominated by one of their supporters and a handful of other allies second the nominations, all of whom speak to the candidates’ qualifications.
Jeffries was nominated by Texas Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson. Reps. Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Florida, Juan C. Vargas of California, Dan Kildee of Michigan and Nydia M. Velázquez of New York seconded.
Lee was nominated by Delaware Rep. Lisa Blunt Rochester. Reps. Joaquin Castro of Texas, Donald S. Beyer Jr. of Virginia and Lois Frankel of Florida and Reps.-elect Katie Hill of California and Deb Haaland of New Mexico seconded.
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