top of page

Democratic Hakeem Jeffries--Speaker-in Waiting

Democratic Leader Hakeem Jeffries–The Shadow House Speaker- in- Waiting  May 19, 2024

            In England and in other parliamentary democracies, the minority opposition has what are officially known as shadow leaders or representatives who will take power should that minority become the majority. The U.S. has no such official or legal designations of shadow leaders. However, our country presently has a strong and well prepared de facto shadow Speaker waiting in the House wings to replace Speaker Mike Johnson (R-LA) should “Team Blue” take back the House in November, 2024. He is House Speaker-in-Waiting, Democratic Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries. According to an article written by Lisa Mascaro, even though Jeffries does not yet wield the gavel or hold a formal job laid out in the Constitution, he might very well be the most powerful person in the present 118th Congress. Let’s meet Hakeem Jeffries. 

          Sixth-term Democratic Congressmember Hakeem Jeffries (53) currently represents New York’s 8th Congressional District (CD). The Empire State 8th CD is at least 41.8% Black,16.8% Hispanic, and 27.6% White. It is located mainly in the borough of Brooklyn, and takes in a small part of the nearby borough of Queens. The NY 8th begins in Fort Green, a gentrifying arts area. From there, it runs east and south through Clinton Hill, Bedford-Stuyvesant (“Bed-Sty”), and East New York. The 8th also includes Spring Creek and Canarsie.Flatlands, Bergen Beach, Marine Park, and Mill Basin additionally lie in the 8th (Cohen & Cook, 2022 Political Almanac). The famous Coney Island amusement resort is also in the NY 8th.Lindenwood and Howard Beach are in the Queen’s section of the 8th.

        “Bed-Sty” is heavily Black and has been plagued by poverty and crime. However, after being visited by Democratic Senators Robert Kennedy and GOP moderate Jacob Javits in 1966, “Bed-Sty” won a Model Cities designation, and the Bedford-Stuyvesant Restoration Corporation helped revive this community. There has been an influx of Caribbean immigrants into the 8th. Howard Beach in Queens is an Italian-American neighborhood. Spring Creek, Canarsie, and Flatlands have Black majorities, while White majorities are present in Bergen Beach, Marine Park, and Mill Basin. Well-known Brighton Beach, part of Coney Island, has more Russian Jewish immigrants than any other district in the nation (Cohen & Cook 2022 Almanac). 

       The NY 8th is an overwhelmingly “Blue” district with a 2022 Cook PVI (Partisan Voting Index) of D+26. In 2020, Joe Biden won 83% of its vote. The current NY 8th remains one of the most Democratic districts in the nation (Cohen & Cook 2022). 

       Hakeem Jeffries was born and raised in Brooklyn’s Crown Heights neighborhood. His father was a social worker and his mother a state substance abuse counselor (, Hamline, 8/25/15). He is a lifelong member of the historically Black Cornerstone Baptist Church (wwny.ny1, 11/30/2022,, 1/17/23,, Mascaro, 5/01/24). Jeffries graduated from Brooklyn’s Midwood High School, a public school that produced many famous people. He received a 1992 undergraduate degree in political science with honors  from Binghamton University. At Binghamton, Jeffries pledged the predominantly African American  fraternity Kappa Alpha Psi. He received a Master’s degree from Georgetown University in public policy as well as a law degree from New York University. He clerked for a federal judge and worked for the large corporate law firm Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton, and Garrison. The Paul Weiss firm is known for launching the careers of many prominent Democratic politicians (Cohen & Cook 2022). After two unsuccessful attempts, Jeffries defeated an incumbent to win a seat in the NY State Assembly in 2006. While in the Assembly, Jeffries worked on affordable housing issues. He also had a bill signed by then Gov. David Paterson that forced the elimination of the NY City Police Department’s “stop and frisk” database. On that database, police kept a list of the names of people stopped but not arrested during street searches. In the State Assembly, Jeffries introduced over 70 bills (Cohen & Cook, assembly.state.ny., 6/14/11). While in the Assembly, Jeffries became one of Obama’s earliest supporters for his presidential run in NY State (wiki). When a U.S. House seat opened in 2012, Jeffries faced NY City Councilman Charles Barron in the Democratic primary. Barron, a former Black Panther, had a history of making inflammatory remarks attacking Israel and Jews and was called a “hate-monger” and “bigot” by local Democrats. Jeffries clobbered him in the primary 72%-28%, a victory equivalent to winning in this ultra-”Blue” district. Jeffries has since coasted to re-election, winning with margins in the 80% and 90% range (Cohen & Cook 2022). 

       In the House, Cong. Jeffries has brought energy as well as a spirit of consensus building to his office. Sitting on the House Judiciary Committee in 2019-2020, Cong. Jeffries was one of the leading advocates of police reform. He won praise as a House manager during the Senate trial of Trump’s first impeachment. He has a nearly perfect liberal record. In the years 2019-2020, he had a composite 98% Liberal v. 2% Conservative score (Cohen & Cook 2022). Despite this strongly liberal record and voting with President Biden, he worked closely with former GOP conservative Cong. Doug Collins of Georgia. In 2017, the two of them took the lead in the enactment of the First Step Act, a bipartisan measure with which even Trump agreed. This legislation overhauled criminal justice procedures, including sentencing guidelines. Jeffries and Collins had previously collaborated and worked closely on many other issues (Cohen & Cook 2022). Jeffries is a member of the Congressional Black Caucus. Jeffries helped enact the Slain Officer Family Support Act. This bill extended the tax deadline for charitable deductions to the families of two Brooklyn police officers killed in Bedford-Stuyvesant. Jeffries filed a bill to bar the use of police chokeholds (Cohen & Cook 2022).

        Cong. Jeffries stands for reasonable background checks on gun owners and banning assault weapons (, Pillifant, 4/16/23). He has strongly condemned the Supreme Ct’s overturning “Roe v. Wade” and has joined fellow Democrats to reintroduce the Women’s Health Protection Act. That act would provide legal protections for abortion patients and abortion providers (, Solender, 6/15/23). He is in favor of banning LGBTQ discrimination (, 5/17/19). Cong. Jeffries has condemned Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and voted to help send military aid to Ukraine as well as Taiwan and Israel ( Cong. Jeffries has visited Israel as a Democratic leader and has led a congressional delegation with him to that country. He firmly supports Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish and democratic state. He is considered “one of the most pro-Israel Democrats in the House.” He believes Israel has a right to defend itself and supports it in its fight against barbaric Hamas. He has strongly condemned anti-Semitism and has called for the release of the hostages taken by Hamas during its October 7, 2023 massacre (abcnews.go., Axelrod, T.,11/14/23, 

       Cong. Jeffries has become part of  the Democratic leadership. In November, 2018, he was elected chair of the House Democratic Caucus, making him the 5th ranking member of the House Democratic leadership (, Fuller, M., 11/28/18). With outgoing Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s (D-CA) endorsement, Jeffries was elected unopposed as House Democratic Leader for the 118th Congress in which the GOP had a bare majority. As the House Minority Leader, Jeffries became the first Black to lead a party caucus in either chamber of Congress (, Cowan & Warburton, 12/01/22).

     Normally, being Minority Leader does not constitute a very powerful position. It’s normally a “game of waiting” for a future election when that party hopes to take over. However, because of the small GOP 4-seat margin, “Team Red’s” constant disarray, and the weakness of House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-LA) who is facing challenges from members of his extremist flank, Cong. Jeffries might very well be the most powerful person in the current 118th Congress (, Mascaro, 5/01/24). Jeffries successfully urged his party to vote to keep the federal government running and stop a GOP shutdown. Jeffries, as previously noted, was instrumental in getting Congress to pass aid for Ukraine, Taiwan, and Israel. And because Jeffries considers GOP Speaker Johnson a more honest political broker than previous GOP leaders, he has indicated that he will get his party to vote to keep Johnson in power rather than be ousted by far-right wacko Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA). In fact, on May 8, 2024, 163 Democrats voted against Cong. Greene’s motion to remove Johnson and her motion failed by a lopsided 359-43 vote ( By keeping Johnson at the helm, Jeffries is showing that Democrats are the “adult” party in the room that knows how to govern (See, Mascaro). Jeffries wants to stop the MAGA chaos and dysfunction that the GOP is unable or unwilling to do. Jeffries wants to get a bipartisan coalition of legislators with “common sense” to run the House. Many politicians and pundits rightfully agree that Jeffries is now operating as a “shadow speaker on all the important votes (Mascaro).” Former Speaker Pelosi calls Jeffries’s ability “masterful” in passing Democratic priorities like foreign aid and other major legislation. Pelosi has correctly stated that Jeffries’ ability to push bipartisanship is “upholding the dignity of the House (, Mascaro, 5/01/24).” 

       Again, Jeffries is presently a shadow Speaker. In November, 2024, Democrats and moderates who believe in a functioning democracy, which requires a strong legislative branch, must vote in droves plus to flip the GOP House.The GOP House, remember, holds power by just 4 votes. Should Democrats recapture the House in November, 2024, Jeffries will then be the real as well as an excellent House Speaker. He will be a leader not only for his party, but will be able to enact strong legislation for our whole country.





bottom of page