Hakeem Sekou Jeffries (//; born August 4, 1970) is an American politician serving as the U.S. Representative for New York's 8th congressional district since 2013. A member of the Democratic Party, his district covers parts of Brooklyn and Queens. A corporate lawyer by occupation, he worked for Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison, then Viacom and CBS, before running for and serving in the New York State Assembly from 2007 to 2012, representing the 57th Assembly district. Jeffries has also chaired the House Democratic Caucus since 2019.
|Chair of the House Democratic Caucus|
|Assumed office |
January 3, 2019
|Preceded by||Joe Crowley|
|Co-Chair of the Democratic Policy and Communications Committee|
January 3, 2017 – January 3, 2019
|Preceded by||Steve Israel (Chair)|
|Succeeded by||Matt Cartwright|
|Member of the U.S. House of Representatives|
from New York's 8th district
|Assumed office |
January 3, 2013
|Preceded by||Edolphus Towns|
|Member of the New York State Assembly|
from the 57th district
January 1, 2007 – December 31, 2012
|Preceded by||Roger Green|
|Succeeded by||Walter Mosley|
Hakeem Sekou Jeffries
August 4, 1970
Brooklyn, New York, U.S.
|Relatives||Leonard Jeffries (uncle)|
|Education||Binghamton University (BA)|
Georgetown University (MPP)
New York University (JD)
Early life and educationEdit
Jeffries was born in Brooklyn Hospital to Laneda Jeffries, a social worker, and Marland Jeffries, a state substance-abuse counselor. Jeffries grew up in Crown Heights, Brooklyn. He graduated from Midwood High School and received a B.A. degree in political science from Binghamton University with honors. He is a member of Kappa Alpha Psi fraternity. He received a J.D. degree from New York University School of Law and obtained a Master of Public Policy degree from Georgetown University.
Jeffries served as a clerk for Judge Harold Baer, Jr. of the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York, then worked in the litigation department of Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison before becoming assistant litigator for Viacom and CBS, where he worked on litigation stemming from the Super Bowl XXXVIII halftime show controversy. During Jeffries' time at Paul, Weiss he also served as director of intergovernmental affairs for the New York State Chapter of the National Association of Minority Contractors and as the president of Black Attorneys for Progress.
New York AssemblyEdit
In 2000, Jeffries challenged incumbent Assemblyman Roger Green in the Democratic primary, criticizing Green for becoming inattentive to the needs of the constituency and preoccupied with the pursuit of higher office (Green had briefly run for New York City Public Advocate in 1997 and had spoken of his plans to run for Congress upon the retirement of Edolphus Towns). A contentious debate between the two candidates, moderated by Dominic Carter on NY1, ended prematurely after Jeffries began his closing statement by saying "the issue in this race is not age -- yes, the assemblyman is older, I'm younger. It's not religion -- yes, the assemblyman is a practicing Muslim and I grew up in the Cornerstone Baptist Church." Green interrupted Jeffries to protest "practicing Muslim? Where'd that come from? I'm absolutely offended, are you trying to polarize our community?" before walking out of the studio, later accusing Jeffries of playing "the religion card." Jeffries contended that his point was that voters should focus on the issues rather than the age or religion of the candidates. Jeffries ultimately lost the Democratic primary 59 percent to 41 percent, but remained on the Independence Party line in the general election, receiving 7 percent while Green received 90 percent and was re-elected to an 11th term.
During post-census redistricting, Jeffries's district was drawn one block outside of Green's Assembly district. Jeffries was still legally permitted to run in the district for the 2002 cycle, as state law only requires a candidate to live in the same county as a district they seek in the first election after a redistricting, but this still complicated Jeffries’s path. Jeffries described the re-drawing of the district as a "desperate act by a career politician trying to save his government job". Green responded that the lines had actually been re-drawn to remove parts of Jeffries's affluent Prospect Heights neighborhood in favor of public housing, and insisted that he had not even known where Jeffries had lived.
Tensions continued to be high throughout the re-match, with Jeffries at one point criticizing Green for accepting $3,700 in support from the Patrolmen's Benevolent Association of the City of New York, using a press release to link the union to the torture of Abner Louima. Jeffries was later forced to admit that a political club he had founded, Brooklyn Freedom Democratic Association, had been behind three anonymous mail pieces sent during the last week of the election, two which attacked Green for inaction as a legislator, and a third which falsely implied that presumptive Democratic gubernatorial nominee Carl McCall supported Jeffries when he had in fact endorsed Green. Jeffries ultimately lost the primary by a 52 percent to 38 percent margin.
After the assassination of Jeffries's close friend and political ally James Davis, Jeffries was considered a potential successor to Davis on the New York City Council, and Jeffries had been named by Davis as a preferred replacement should he be elected to higher office. After the Democratic nomination went to Davis's surviving brother Geoffrey, who was mired in a domestic violence scandal, Jeffries was considered for the Working Families Party nomination, but he did not put his name forward for consideration. Tish James was ultimately nominated by the WFP and elected.
The lasting effects of the 2002 redistricting left Jeffries notably unable to challenge Green in the 2004 Democratic primary, which took place just months after Green had been forced to resign from his seat by Sheldon Silver and Democratic leadership after pleading guilty to billing the state for false travel expenses. Green was ultimately re-nominated unopposed.
In 2006 Green decided to retire from the Assembly in order to run for New York's 10th congressional district against incumbent Democrat U.S. Congressman Ed Towns. Jeffries ran for the 57th district again and won the Democratic primary, defeating Bill Batson and Freddie Hamilton 64 percent to 25 percent and 11 percent. In the general election, he handily defeated Republican nominee Henry Weinstein.
Two years later, in 2008, he won re-election to a second term, defeating the Republican candidate Charles Brickhouse, with 98 percent of the vote. In 2010 he won re-election to a third term, easily defeating the Republican candidate Frank Voyticky.
During his six years in the state legislature he introduced over 70 bills. In response to a series of toy recalls, he introduced bill A02589, which would penalize retailers and wholesalers who knowingly sell to the public hazardous or dangerous toys that have been the subject of a recall. In 2010, the Stop-and-Frisk database bill was signed into law by Governor Paterson that banned police from compiling names and addresses of those stopped but not arrested during street searches.
He also wrote and sponsored the hotly contested house bill A. 11177-A (now law) that eliminated the stop-and-frisk database used by police forces in New York City. He sponsored and passed house bill A.9834-A (now law) the Inmate-base gerrymandering law that ended counting prison populations of upstate districts as part of the public population, becoming the second state to end this practice.
- State House Committee on Banks
- State House Committee on Codes
- State House Committee on Corporations, Authorities, and Commissions
- State House Committee on Correction
- State House Committee on Housing
- State House Committee on Judiciary
U.S. House of RepresentativesEdit
Jeffries announced he would give up his Assembly seat to run in New York's 8th congressional district in January 2012. The district, which includes the Brooklyn communities of Fort Greene, Clinton Hill, Bed-Stuy, Brownsville, East New York, Canarsie, Mill Basin and Coney Island along with South Ozone Park and Howard Beach in the borough of Queens, had previously been the 10th, represented by 30-year incumbent Democrat Edolphus Towns. On the steps of Brooklyn's Borough Hall, Jeffries said: "Washington is broken. Congress is dysfunctional. People are suffering. We deserve more."
Jeffries expected to give Towns a strong challenge in the Democratic primary—the real contest in this heavily Democratic, black-majority district. However, with Jeffries assembling "a broad coalition of support" and having more cash than the incumbent, Towns announced his retirement on April 16, leaving Jeffries to face city councilman Charles Barron in the Democratic primary.
Touted as the "Barack Obama of Brooklyn" during his run for the congressional seat, Jeffries has said he doesn't see the Obama comparison. "Other than the fact that we were both born on August 4, it's not clear to me that there's much of a professional resemblance,"
On June 11, 2012, former Mayor Ed Koch, Congressman Jerrold Nadler, Councilman David Greenfield, and Assemblyman Dov Hikind gathered with several other elected officials to support Jeffries and denounce Barron. The officials described Barron as anti-Semitic and denounced his allegedly anti-Semitic statements, while also denouncing his support of Zimbabwe ruler Robert Mugabe and former Libya ruler Muammar Gaddafi. Barron responded that such attacks were a distraction from bread and butter issues.
Green Party candidate Colin Beavan called on Jeffries to "get the money out of politics", noting that as of his March 2012 filing, "he had received about $180,000, or 35 percent of his funds, from Wall Street bankers and their lawyers". Beaven added that Jeffries gets many campaign donations from charter school backers and hedge fund managers. After primary night, when asked about his two most important concerns, Jeffries replied eliminating the "crushing burden" of private religious school education costs.
After out-raising him by hundreds of thousands of dollars, Jeffries defeated Barron in the primary election on June 26, 2012, 72 to 28 percent. A New York Daily News post-election editorial noted that Barron had been "repudiated" in all parts of the Congressional district, including among neighbors on Barron's own block in East New York, where the Councilman lost 57-50. The Daily News also analyzed Jeffries' donations in the last weeks of the campaign and found almost 50 percent came from out of state. He went on to defeat Beavan and Republican Alan Bellone in the November general election with 71 percent of the vote, but not before declining to attend a pre-primary debate with third party candidates, saying that the presence of the Green Party and Republican candidates at the debate would "confuse" voters.
On January 3, 2013, Jeffries was sworn into the 113th Congress.
Among the innovative practices Jeffries has carried over to Congress from his service in the State Assembly are: Operation Preserve, a legal housing clinic for displaced residents in the community; Summer at the Subway, now known as "Congress on Your Corner,"; outdoor evening office hours from June through August near subway stations that allows him to connect and hear constituents' concerns first- hand; and his annual "State of the District" address, a community event in January that reviews important milestones achieved in the past year and previews the Congressman's goals for the year ahead.
He is pro-Israel, saying at a rally in July 2014 "Israel should not be made to apologize for its strength." Citing his own childhood growing up in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, Jeffries added that he knew from experience that "the only thing that neighbors respect in a tough neighborhood is strength."
Since taking federal office, Jeffries has been called "a rising star". He has been appointed to the House Judiciary Committee Task Force on Over Criminalization as well as appointed the Congressional Black Caucus Whip. He also plays in the infield on the Congressional Baseball Team.
As a member of Congress, he has called for a federal investigation by the U.S. Department of Justice into the circumstances surrounding the death of Eric Garner. On a visit to the Staten Island site where Garner was killed, recorded by a CNN news crew in December 2014, Jeffries encountered Gwen Carr, the victim's mother. In April 2015, Jeffries stood with Carr to announce the introduction of the Excessive Use of Force Prevention Act of 2015 that would make the use of a chokehold illegal under federal law.
As the Congressmember with among the highest number of public housing residents, Jeffries has focused on being attentive to their needs. He introduced P.J.'s Act in response to the death of 6 year old P.J. Avitto of East New York who was stabbed in an elevator inside the Boulevard Houses, a NYCHA apartment complex. The legislation would increase federal funding for enhanced security in public housing developments.
Jeffries has also publicly called on the New York City Police Department Commissioner to reform its marijuana arrest policy after recent reports showed that small amount of marijuana arrests, which had increased dramatically under Mayor Michael Bloomberg Administration's application of stop-and-frisk, were still rising in New York City under Bloomberg's successor, Mayor Bill de Blasio. Jeffries has become a high-profile critic of New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and NYPD Commissioner William Bratton, questioning whether the reduction in stop-and-frisk has been a product of mayoral administration changes or the results of a movement that brought a successful federal lawsuit, and criticizing Eric Garner's chokehold death.
In Congress, as the Congressional Black Caucus' Whip, he has been actively involved in maintaining the CBC historic role as "the conscience of the Congress." In his CBC role, he has hosted Special Orders on the House floor, including regarding voting rights (after the Supreme Court decision weakening the 1965 Voting Rights Act) and in December 2014, leading CBC members in a "hands up, don't shoot" protest to protest the killings of African-Americans by police. After the shootings in Charleston in June 2015 by a white supremacist inspired by the Confederate flag, Jeffries led the effort to have the flag removed for sale or display on National Park Service land, an amendment eventually killed by the Republican House leadership after its initial support and inclusion on voice vote. During dramatic debate on the House floor, Jeffries stood next to the Confederate battle flag, and noted he "got chills" and lamented that the "Ghosts of the Confederacy have invaded the GOP."
With a high concentration of public housing and high unemployment in his district, Jeffries has also made an issue of HUD's failure to adequately enforce Section 3 of its initial creating statute from 1968, which explicitly required that federally funded capital and rehabilitation projects in public housing developments had to employ residents of those developments. As Jeffries noted, "we can download the power of the federal government into neighborhoods that are struggling the most, without legislative action. The most promising area is Section 3."
In addition to legislation mentioned above, on April 11, 2013, Jeffries introduced the Prison Ship Martyrs' Monument Preservation Act (H.R. 1501; 113th Congress) into the United States House of Representatives. Jeffries's proposed bill would direct the Secretary of the Interior to study the suitability and feasibility of designating the Prison Ship Martyrs' Monument in Fort Greene Park in the New York City borough of Brooklyn as a unit of the National Park System (NPS). Jeffries said that "as one of America's largest revolutionary war burial sites and in tribute to the patriots that lost their lives fighting for our nation's independence, this monument deserves to be considered as a unit of the National Park Service." On April 28, 2014, the Prison Ship Martyrs's Monument Preservation Act was passed by the House.
On July 15, 2014, Jeffries, who in private practice addressed intellectual property issues, introduced the To establish the Law School Clinic Certification Program of the United States Patent and Trademark Office (H.R. 5108; 113th Congress), which would establish the Law School Clinic Certification Program of the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) to be available to accredited law schools for the ten-year period after enactment of the Act.
In 2015, Jeffries led the effort in Congress to pass The Slain Officer Family Support Act, which extended the tax deadline for individuals making donations to organizations supporting the families of assassinated NYPD Detectives Wenjian Liu and Rafael Ramos. The families of the officers, who had been assassinated in their patrol car on December 20, 2014 in the Bedford-Stuyvesant section of Jeffries' district, had been the recipients of significant charitable fundraising. Prior to the enactment of the new law, individuals would have had to make those contributions by December 31, 2014 to qualify for a tax deduction in connection with taxes filed in 2015. With the legal change, contributions made until April 15, 2015 were deductible. President Obama signed the bill into law on April 1, 2015.
Democratic Caucus ChairEdit
On November 28, 2018, Jeffries defeated California Congresswoman Barbara Lee to become Chair of the House Democratic Caucus. His term began when the new Congress was sworn in on January 3, 2019.
- Committee on the Judiciary
- Committee on the Budget
During 2007, while still in his first term in the State Assembly, Jeffries publicly endorsed and supported Barack Obama, and was among Obama's earliest supporters in Hillary Clinton's home state. In one interview, he noted ""When I first ran for office, some people suggested that someone with the name "Hakeem Jeffries" could never get elected and when I saw someone with the name "Barack Obama" get elected to the U.S. Senate, it certainly inspired me."
While President Barack Obama did not openly support candidates in Democratic primaries, he and President Bill Clinton together took a photograph with Jeffries weeks before his 2012 Congressional primary against Councilman Charles Barron, which was effectively used in campaign literature.
The following year, Jeffries backed Laurie Cumbo in the hotly contested race for Brooklyn's 35th city council seat vacated by Tish James, who won the City-wide race for Public Advocate, also with a Jeffries endorsement.
In 2013, Jeffries endorsed in the race for Brooklyn District Attorney, the seat held since 1990 by Charles' "Joe" Hynes, whose office was facing deep criticism for wrongful convictions and botched prosecutions. He endorsed Kenneth Thompson, whom Jeffries had met while interning at the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Eastern District in the 1990s, when Thompson was a prosecutor.
According to journalists, the Jeffries endorsement of Thompson's campaign was critical, and was followed by endorsements of Thompson by Brooklyn's three other Democratic members of Congress. Thompson won the Democratic primary and defeated Hynes again in the general election when the DA elected to run as a Republican in the majority Democratic borough.
In the 2013 NYC mayoral race, Jeffries endorsed City Comptroller Bill Thompson, hailing his experience in City government. Jeffies also noted he was offended by Bill de Blasio's ad featuring stop and frisk claiming himself as the only candidate who would address, modify or reform stop and frisk:
In some ways, I'm offended by the notion that one individual, in a city of eight million people, after years and years and years of many of us, in the state legislature and the City Council, activists, marches that took place, including one on Father's Day, to get us to a point where all of the major mayoral candidates have said stop and frisk will be significantly reformed on their watch.
His support of Thompson over de Blasio came in spite of Jeffries' own support of two policing bills, for independent inspector general for the police department and to allow for bias suits in state court, which de Blasio backed but Thompson did not. Jeffries said it made sense for Thompson, because he was running to be the city's top executive, not to support them.
In that state senate race, as in several others since 2012, Jeffries has endorsed opponents of candidates endorsed by current Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams, which has created the perception of a rivalry between the two prominent elected officials. Both Jeffries and Adams have dismissed these perceptions, noting their shared history (they had together served as prime co-sponsors of the 2010 stop-frisk database bill in the state legislature) with Jeffries adding.: "Over the years, we've often disagreed about the best candidate for our community. But when the election is over, we should all work together to get things done."
In 2015, calls were been made among prominent African-American pastors for Jeffries to step into the 2017 Democratic primary for Mayor against Bill de Blasio. Jeffries has stated that he has "no interest" and wishes to remain an effective member of Congress.
He is married to Kennisandra Arciniegas-Jeffries, a social worker with 1199 SEIU's Benefit Fund. They have two boys, Jeremiah (born 2001) and Joshua (born 2004) and live in Prospect Heights.
Jeffries' younger brother, Hasan Kwame Jeffries, is an associate professor of history at the Ohio State University in Columbus. He is the author of Bloody Lowndes: Civil Rights and Black Power in Alabama's Black Belt. Jeffries is the nephew of Leonard Jeffries, a former professor at City College of New York.
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- Yee, Vivian. "Brooklyn Prosecutor, in Reversal, Will Run as a Republican to Keep his Job". nytimes.com. New York Times.
- Baker, Al. "Paterson Signs Bill Limiting Stop-and-Frisk Data". CityRoom-Blogs. New York Times. Retrieved July 16, 2010.
- Pillifant, Reid (Aug 22, 2013). "'Offended' by de Blasio's ad, Hakeem Jeffries endorses Bill Thompson". Capital New York. Archived from the original on 2014-02-02.
- "Praise for Brooklyn's Democratic leader Seddio at post-primary breakfast - Brooklyn Daily Eagle". Retrieved 1 March 2017.
- "Crown Heights: Jesse Hamilton Wins Big In Senate Vote". Retrieved 1 March 2017.
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- Jeffries, Hasan Kwame. "Bloody Lowndes Civil Rights and Black Power in Alabama's Black Belt". Google Books. Retrieved August 2010. Check date values in:
- Congressman Hakeem Jeffries official U.S. House website
- Hakeem Jeffries for Congress official campaign website
- Appearances on C-SPAN
- Hakeem Jeffries at Curlie
- Biography at the Biographical Directory of the United States Congress
- Profile at Vote Smart
- Financial information (federal office) at the Federal Election Commission
- Legislation sponsored at the Library of Congress
- A Lawyer Eyes Lawmaking, Crain's New York Business, March 12, 2007
|New York Assembly|
| Member of the New York Assembly
from the 57th district
|U.S. House of Representatives|
| Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from New York's 8th congressional district
|Party political offices|
| Chair of the Democratic Policy and Communications Committee
Served alongside: Cheri Bustos, David Cicilline
| Chair of the House Democratic Conference
|U.S. order of precedence (ceremonial)|
| United States Representatives by seniority