Rep. Hakeem Jeffries

In Historic First, Hakeem Jeffries Is Elected Democratic Party Leader Succeeding Nancy Pelosi

House Democrats have elected New York Rep. Hakeem Jeffries to lead the party in the next Congress making him the first Black person to lead a major political party in the U.S.

The Hill reports Jeffries will succeed Nancy Pelosi, who recently announced she would step down as party leader after her husband was attacked in their home. After Pelosi and her top Deputies Jim Clyburn (S.C.) and Steny Hoyer (Md.) announced they were stepping down, Jeffries quickly launched his bid for party leader.

Reps. Katherine Clark (Mass.) and Pete Aguilar (Calif.) were also voted into new positions and will succeed Hoyer and Clyburn. In a sign of Democratic unity, none of the three faced an opponent.

Jeffries, a Georgetown and New York University graduate said he hasn’t had much time to appreciate the historic significance of his leadership role, adding that he’s currently focused on the party’s transition to the minority and “the solemn responsibility” he’s about to assume.

“The best thing that we can do as a result of the seriousness and solemnity of the moment is lean in hard and do the best damn job that we can for people,” Jeffries said according to The Hill.

That didn’t stop other Democrats from celebrating Jeffries’ historic achievement, especially those in the Congressional Black Caucus including California Rep. Maxine Waters.

“As an African American, it sends a message out to this country that it’s time for real diversity and inclusion. And there are so many people of color who are capable and competent and can lead,” Waters, a 32-year congressional veteran and highly influential member of the Black Caucus told The Hill. “This will be a great image, for people of color, and for Black people and little Black boys to be able to aspire to a position as high as that.”

With Jeffries set to lead, the Democratic Party has turned Brooklyn, NY into a stronghold for the party as fellow Brooklynite Charles Schumer (N.Y.) is poised to remain the majority leader after Democrats held onto their upper-chamber majority in the Midterm Elections.

“I can’t wait to talk to my neighbor from Brooklyn four or six times a day like I did with Speaker Pelosi,” the Senate leader said on the floor Wednesday morning.

The change in leadership comes after Democrats lost control of the House but did much better than expected and leaving Republicans with a slim majority.

The Brooklyn Democrat has experienced a quick rise up the ranks of the party since 2013 when he became the co-chair of the party’s messaging group and later became chair of the House Democratic Caucus.

He was also quickly endorsed by Pelosi Hoyer and Clyburn after announcing his intent to become party leader.