Rep. Hakeem Jeffries of New York has been elected the next Democratic House leader, making history as the first black lawmaker to lead a political party’s caucus. The 52-year-old Jeffries was elected on Wednesday in a unanimous vote, as Democrats prepare to relinquish control of the House in January. Jeffries will take over for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who announced earlier this month she would not seek leadership next session. Pelosi has served as the House Democratic leader since 2003.

Jeffries was first elected to Congress in 2012; his top deputy will be Rep. Katherine Clark, D-Mass., 59, who served under Jeffries as vice chair of the Democratic Caucus and rose to assistant speaker in this Congress. The trio represents a generational shift for Democrats, who are currently led by a trio in their 80s.  Jeffries told reporters in the Capitol: “This is a moment of transition  We stand on the shoulders of giants, but are also looking forward to being able to do what’s necessary at this moment to advance the issues.”

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer called Jeffries’ election a turning point in the history of the United States Congress: “It’s not surprising that House Democrats are turning to someone from Brooklyn to lead the way next year, because when you’re from Brooklyn, you learn quickly traits like persistence and serious mettle. It’s a crowded place and a diverse place. You learn how to work with all kinds of different people. You learn how to stand your ground. You learn to not take things personally.”

Editorial credit: lev radin /

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