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Rep. Pete Aguilar
Pete Aguilar will be one of three new Democratic Party leaders in the House in 2023. Photo: Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images

Who is Pete Aguilar? Soon to be Democrats' most powerful Latino in the House

Aguilar will be one of three new Democratic leaders in Congress come 2023.

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Two weeks ago, as Democrats reckoned with losing the House of Representatives in the 2022 midterm elections, they also lost a leader that’s been their guide for more than two decades in various leadership posts in and out of the lower chamber of Congress.

Nancy Pelosi is a living legend, but all legends must know when it’s time to step aside for a new generation of leaders. That was the message the 82-year-old California Rep had for her colleagues in an address on Thursday, Nov. 18. 

“For me the hour has come for a new generation to lead the Democratic caucus that I so deeply respect,” Pelosi said on the floor.

Along with the longtime House Speaker and caucus leader, Pelosi’s leadership trio of Rep. Steny Hoyer (83) and Rep. James Clyburn (82) are also stepping down from their leadership posts in the party. Hoyer was the house majority leader, and Clyburn, the Democratic whip.

In their place, there is another trio of younger lawmakers many expect the party to get behind to lead it into the future.

No, it’s not the Squad of Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar, but the trio of Reps. Hakeem Jeffries of New York, 52, Katherine Clark of Massachusetts, 59, and Pete Aguilar of California, 43.

Jeffries is the most likely to take Pelosi’s spot at the top, with Clark and Aguilar occupying the roles held by Hoyer and Clyburn.

The New York Rep officially announced his candidacy for party leadership on Friday, Nov. 19, and if elected by his party, would be the first Black person in a top leadership position in Congress.

But Jeffries isn’t the only person that could make history with a promotion. 

Aguilar, the youngest of the trio, would be the first Latino in the history of U.S. Congress to be in any leadership position. That includes, as speaker, Majority-Minority leader and the party whip. 

When talking about his quest to be the most powerful Latino in Congress to the press, Aguilar framed the story as the achievement of the American Dream.

He is a fourth generation Mexican-American whose family put down roots in Redlands, California, part of the state’s Inland Empire — the counties directly east of Los Angeles in Southern California. Aguilar went to and graduated from the local college, Redlands University, and his current congressional district (California’s 31st) also contains his hometown. He’s served as its representative in Congress since 2014, when he flipped it to Democratic control.

According to the bio on his official U.S. representative website, Aguilar began working at 12 years old with his grandfather in the cafeteria of the San Bernardino County Courthouse. 

Before running for Congress, Aguilar was also Mayor of his hometown of Redlands.

His most recent actions in Congress were as part of the House Select Jan. 6 Committee, investigating all that led up to the attempted coup at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021 following the loss of former President Donald Trump in the 2020 election.

Aguilar specifically held a hearing on Trump’s efforts to pressure then-Vice President Mike Pence to overturn the 2020 election results. In the process, Pence ended up just 40 feet from insurrectionists that stormed the Capitol building and were chanting for his head.

“Make no mistake about the fact that the vice president’s life was in danger,” was one of the many memorable lines from Aguilar during the hearing.

Now, Aguilar is taking that high-profile exposure to one of the highest leadership posts in the Democratic Party.

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