S. E. Williams
There was much to celebrate across the country on Wednesday when the Democratic Caucus of the U.S. House of Representatives elected a new generation of leaders.
Elected by his peers and accepting the mantle of Democratic Caucus Chairperson, San Bernardino County’s 31st Congressional District Representative Pete Aguilar has ascended to the third highest position of leadership for Democrats in Congress.
When Aguilar begins his fifth Congressional term in January 2023 he will not only step into his new role as Democratic Caucus Chairman, he will also step into history assuming the highest-level position ever held by a Latino in U.S. House of Representatives. As such, he not only carries the pride and support of constituents in San Bernardino County and California but also Latino and other BIPOC communities across the country.
At the age of 43, Aguilar is the youngest among those voted into leadership by the Democratic Caucus on Wednesday. He joins another history maker, Hakeem Jeffries, (NY) who became the first Black legislator to ever lead the Congressional Caucus of either political party and Katherine Clark, (MA), who was elected to serve as Party Whip.
Passing the torch
Subsequent to the November 8 Midterm Election when it became apparent that the 118th Congress will be led by Republicans, heralded Democratic Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (CA) and Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (MD), ages 82 and 83 respectively, announced their intentions to step aside opening the way for what many Democrats have advocated for–a new generation of congressional leadership.
This week in an exclusive interview with Black Voice News and IE Voice Aguilar spoke about his history making leadership role bestowed on him by his congressional peers and what it means to supporters in San Bernardino, the Latino and other communities of color.
“It is a deep honor my colleagues have given me to put this community, to represent San Bernardino, CA and communities of color who often feel left behind thinking the government doesn’t take their concerns seriously enough. This position is a down payment on the work ahead. We want to get work done for the American people.”
A strong connection to community
Aguilar has deep roots in San Bernardino where his family has lived for four generations. His life experiences in the area and his time as Mayor of Redlands helped shape and inform his leadership style and priorities as a congressional leader. He spoke about how the inland region is so often in the shadows of Los Angeles noting how people choose to live in this area because of its lower cost of living. Adding how life offers an opportunity for parents like his and others to provide a better way of life for their children. “That’s what my parents were able to achieve and they taught me the value of hard work.”
Aguilar, who currently holds the position of Vice Chair of the House Democratic Caucus, shared perhaps the biggest shift to his new role is “the passing of the baton to this new generation of leaders”.
“I am sitting in an elevated position,” he acknowledged while at the same time affirming how he will continue to be the voice of San Bernardino, California and “for people”.
Looking to the future
Commenting on what lies ahead in Washington D. C. in the coming year, “The Republicans have a very slim majority,” stated Aguilar. “It will be difficult for them to implement an agenda.”
He further advised how Republicans are going to work hard to undo the successes of the current Congress. “We had to put the pandemic behind us and put public health at the forefront and make sure millionaires and billionaires pay their fair share. They are going to unwind the agenda we have passed the last two years. He assured however, “Everyday we will push back because they have no agenda.”
As Aguilar steps into his new role he remains fully committed to those he represent stressing that although he is taking on added responsibilities he will remain close to those he was elected to serve.
“For the last eight years it has been a profound privilege to represent this community. I travel nine hours each way twice a week to be home with my family. My children still attend public school here. San Bernardino County is home. It is where I want to eat and watch the sunsets.”
In addition to currently serving as Vice Chair of the House Democratic Caucus and as a Member of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus and the New Democrat Coalition, Aguilar also serves on the House Appropriations Committee and is a member of the Committee on House Administration.
He is the founder of the bipartisan E-Commerce Caucus and is also a member of the Pro-Choice Caucus, LGBT Equality Caucus, Work for Warriors Caucus, Veterans Jobs Caucus, Congressional MS Caucus, Native American Caucus, and the Steel Caucus.