Can Hakeem Make It Rain?

jefferies and pelsoi
Long admired for his competent leadership style, Hakeem Jefferies has also benefited from the tutelage of his predecessor, Nancy Pelosi, who has provided key introductions to her donor network around the country. Photo: Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images
Tara Palmeri
January 9, 2023

Hakeem Jeffries, the historic first Black leader of the House Democrats, has been quietly building toward this moment for some time. Admired for his competent leadership style and subtle ability to manufacture consensus, he’s also benefited from the tutelage of his predecessor, Nancy Pelosi, who for years has publicly showered him with praise, calling him a future star of the party, and providing key introductions to her donor network around the country. Some, like Adam Schiff, may have been more prodigious fundraisers, but Jeffries was the most popular, and won the prize. Now that he’s running the show, of course, there are already quiet murmurs about his ability to bring in the sort of haul that the House Democrats have become accustomed to, year after year, to take back the majority in ’24.

Naturally, the private questioning comes down to the role that Pelosi will play in all of it. At the annual Democracy Alliance confab last month that Jeffries also attended, she told a smaller group of donors that she wouldn’t be acting as some sort of “mother-in-law in the kitchen,” according to my Puck partner Teddy Schleifer. Pelosi doesn’t need to stand over Jeffries’ shoulder from the backbenches, nor does she want to appear to infantilize him; Jeffries, after all, represents much of the same tri-state turf that Chuck Schumer has mined so voraciously and effectively for ages. But he’s also not like Schumer, who has been a fundraising machine since his time in the New York State assembly. The question really comes down to whether Pelosi is going to act as a security blanket, a facilitator, or an aggressor in ensuring that her network transcends her leadership and career. 

“Nancy Pelosi was the most effective fundraiser I’ve ever seen in politics but it didn’t happen overnight, it took a while,” former Democratic Congressional Committee chair Steve Israel explained. “It’s not going to happen overnight for Hakeem Jeffries either.” Like Jeffries, Pelosi introduced Israel to her inner circle at donor events in California when he raised money for the party. “Speaker Pelosi’s donor network is wide, deep and intensely loyal to her,” he said. “I’m sure that she will be encouraging them to be just as generous toward winning a Democratic majority in 2024 for Hakeem’s leadership.”