New York Rep. Hakeem Jeffries pulled off a surprise victory Wednesday when he defeated California Rep. Barbara Lee to become the next Democratic Caucus chairman.
Jeffries won the vote 123-113 over his fellow Congressional Black Caucus member in a vote that strikes as a sign that the party leadership is finally starting to get younger—Jeffries is 48, while Lee is 72—and more diverse. It could potentially set the stage for Jeffries to become the first Black Speaker of the House.
“Hakeem is the present and the future,” Fellow New York Rep. Gregory Meeks said to Politico. “And I think that the reason why he won is he’s demonstrated to the caucus that he’s one that can bring us all together.”
Jeffries waited until after the Midterms to announce his run for the position against the seasoned Lee. The elections had more of a feel of a campaign rally with both Jeffries and Lee giving speeches.
Lee, who was vying to become the first Black woman to be Caucus chair, had more than two dozen supporters to stand behind her from all corners of the caucus, a live illustration of Democrats’ racial, age and gender diversity, according to Politico.
Jeffries, meanwhile, gave a list of landmark Democratic legislative achievements from the last several decades, from the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act to the Affordable Care Act.
“We did that. Democrats did that,” Jeffries said, according to those in attendance.
Jeffries also said that the days of “bending over backward” to compromise with Republicans are over and promising an aggressive response to Donald Trump’s agenda.