House Democrats voted Wednesday to make Rep. Hakeem Jeffries their leader in the next Congress, replacing 82-year-old Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
Jeffries won the post in an uncontested election after Pelosi and the two other incumbent members of the Democratic leadership, Majority Leader Steny Hoyer and Majority Whip Jim Clyburn, opted to step down. Jeffries, a 52-year-old New Yorker, will be the first African American to serve as House Democratic leader.
"Leadership is incredibly important," said Jeffries. "When we get an opportunity as diverse leaders to serve in positions of consequence, the most meaningful thing we can do in that space is an incredibly good job."
House Democrats also elected Massachusetts Rep. Katherine Clark to serve as Democratic Whip. California Rep. Pete Aguilar was elected to serve as chairman of the House Democratic caucus. Both Clark and Aguilar served in leadership under Pelosi for the past two years.
"Effective leadership is not about individual ambition, but our collective good. It is about truly listening and understanding what each member needs to be successful," said Clark. "I will use my voice at the leadership table to bring people and solutions together."
Pelosi, D-Calif., announced her decision to step down as leader shortly after Democrats lost control of the House of Representatives in this year's midterm elections. The decision created the first open race for Democratic leader since Pelosi was elevated to the role in 2003.
"For me, the hour has come for a new generation to lead the Democratic caucus that I so deeply respect, and I'm grateful that so many are ready and willing to shoulder this awesome responsibility," Pelosi said this month.
While she will relinquish her leadership post, Pelosi will remain in the House as a rank-and-file member. The arrangement has led some to question whether Jeffries can adequately lead House Democrats with such a high-profile predecessor still around.
"It's going to be a little awkward," said one senior Democratic aide. "Pelosi has had such a tight grip on the conference for so long. Every time that Jeffries does something that people don't agree with, they'll look towards Pelosi."
Jeffries said he is not troubled by Pelosi's decision to remain in the House.
"She’s not going to be the type of individual that’s looking over the shoulders of those leaders that she just helped to elevate," said Jeffries.