Pelosi is raising tens of millions for Democratic candidates. A growing number say they won’t support her bid for speaker.
A close tally of Democratic House candidates who have said they won’t support House minority leader Nancy Pelosi indicates Democrats would either have to win by a huge margin in order for her to hang onto her top leadership post in 2019 — or those newly elected representatives would have to go back on a key campaign promise during their first vote in office.
Pelosi has already said she will run for speaker if Democrats win in 2018. But her path to victory in such a scenario is looking very narrow.
Vox has counted 23 candidates who have publicly said they will not support Pelosi for speaker should Democrats retake the House in 2018. Of those, 17 candidates are on the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee’s Red to Blue list, the list of Republican-held districts Democrats consider competitive. Red to Blue is the closest the DCCC comes to endorsing a candidate; those candidates get extra resources to help in their races.
Pelosi faced a leadership challenge from Rep. Tim Ryan (D-OH) in 2016. Although she won, 63 House Democrats voted for Ryan, a third of the caucus. With Dems still grumbling about how the caucus is run and the impending exit of House Democratic Caucus Chair Joe Crowley (widely considered a Pelosi successor), there are plenty of whispers about who could be next — whispers that Pelosi’s team is shrugging off.
“Leader Pelosi enjoys the overwhelming support of House Democrats and that will continue into the majority she’s so focused on winning,” said Pelosi spokesperson Drew Hammill in a statement to Vox.
Publicly distancing oneself from Pelosi (while continuing to accept money she’s fundraised) is proving to be a politically prudent — and winning — strategy for candidates. It may have helped propel now-Rep. Conor Lamb to a surprise victory in a deeply red Pennsylvania district that Democrats had believed was out of reach.
Red to blue candidates are all trying to win in moderate or red-leaning districts, so it may not be surprising that more are leaning into this tactic. But it’s notable that the number has grown so much. It’s true that some are veiling their opposition in calls for “new leadership in both parties,” but with Pelosi as the best-known Democrat currently in leadership, it’s hard to miss who they’re talking about.
At least publicly, Pelosi does not seem to be worried. She’s made it clear she wants Democrats to win at any cost, even if that means they’re publicly campaigning against her. Pelosi, a prolific fundraiser, has already raised nearly $70 million this election cycle, breaking her own previous record.
Here are the Red to Blue list candidates who have said they won’t support Pelosi.
Clarke Tucker, Arkansas’s Second Congressional District
“I’ve said from day one that I won’t vote for Nancy Pelosi” —campaign ad
Gil Cisneros, California’s 39th Congressional District
“No. While I respect Representative Pelosi’s years of advocacy on behalf of California and the Democratic party, new leadership is needed.” —statement to Politico
Brendan Kelly, Illinois’s 12th Congressional District
“I think we need new leadership in both parties and that’s just how I feel.” —interview with the Southern Illinoisan
Paul Davis, Kansas’s Second Congressional District
“This is a broken Congress right now, and I think the leaders of both political parties bear responsibility for that. And I think that we need new leadership in both political parties.” — interview with USA Today.
Jared Golden, Maine’s Second Congressional District
Golden “has no intention of voting for Nancy Pelosi. None at all.” —at a Maine voter forum, reported by the Lewiston Sun-Journal
Elissa Slotkin, Michigan’s Eighth Congressional District
“I always believe in being respectful to leaders, particularly women who have broken [glass] ceilings. But I think it’s clear that on both sides of the aisle, people are seeking new leadership, and I’m going to be looking for someone who best represents my district and what we care about here. And I believe that’s a new generation of leaders.” —interview with the Washington Post
Dan McCready, North Carolina’s Ninth Congressional District
“I’ve said since day one that I wouldn’t vote for Nancy Pelosi as speaker. I think we need a whole new generation of people in D.C. That’s part of why I’m running; we need some new blood.” —interview with the Washington Post
Kathy Manning, North Carolina’s 13th Congressional District
“I cannot vote for more of the same, and I cannot support Nancy Pelosi or Paul Ryan to lead Congress. We need fresh faces and bold ideas leading both parties.” —Medium post
Jeff Van Drew, New Jersey’s Second Congressional District
“I would not say that I would support her. It would be something that I think we need to look at, and it very well could be that we look at new Democratic leadership and voices.” —statement to Politico
Mikie Sherrill, New Jersey’s 11th Congressional District
“I’m glad to see that Paul Ryan decided not to run for reelection, but in the Democratic party, we have to look at ourselves as well. I won’t be supporting Nancy Pelosi for leadership either, because we know that the next 50 years aren’t going to look like the last 50 years, and we need a new generation of leaders who are going to bring forward fresh ideas as to how we move this country forward.” —interview with the New Jersey Globe
Max Rose, New York’s 11th Congressional District
“Throughout my campaign, I have spoken about how people in my district have lost trust in our political process and in both parties. If the Democratic Party is going to earn back the trust of the American people then we need to show them that we are serious about changing our politics — and that means we need a change in leadership.” —statement to Politico
Anthony Brindisi, New York’s 22nd Congressional District
“It’s something that I decided early on by talking to voters in the district. I believe it’s time for new leadership on both sides of the aisle.“ —interview with the Post Standard/Syracuse.com
Ken Harbaugh, Ohio’s Seventh Congressional District
“I would not support her. Unless we right the ship and realize that politics as usual is part of the problem, we’re going to keep losing.” —interview with the Wall Street Journal
Ben McAdams, Utah’s Fourth Congressional District
“It’s time for new leadership. I’d be looking at who’s running and what they bring to the table.” —interview with the Salt Lake Tribune
Abigail Spanberger, Virginia’s Seventh Congressional District
Spanberger praised Pelosi but said she’d “very much like to vote for someone else.” —interview with RealClearPolitics
Dan Kohl, Wisconsin’s Sixth Congressional District
“If I’m elected to Congress, I would not vote for Nancy Pelosi as leader of the Democrats.” —interview with Fox 6
Richard Ojeda, West Virginia’s Third Congressional District
“Nancy Pelosi is an absolute train wreck for the Democratic Party and for working-class families.” —Ojeda quoted in an op-ed in the Hill. He also told the Atlantic’s Russell Berman he wouldn’t support Pelosi.
And here’s a list of the candidates not on the Red to Blue list who have also publicly opposed Pelosi’s bid for speaker.
Andrew Janz, California’s 22nd Congressional District
“I’m not supporting Nancy Pelosi.” —NBC News interview
David Kim, Georgia’s Seventh Congressional District
“When you are not winning, you need to change the coach, change the team members or both. You can’t keep doing the same thing and expect different results.” —interview with the Atlanta Journal-Constitution
JD Scholten, Iowa’s Fourth Congressional District
“Democrats hate trickle-down economics; they should hate trickle-down politics.” Scholten added he would not support Pelosi in leadership. —Interview with Slate
Janet Garrett, Ohio’s Fourth Congressional District
“I look at the leadership — I think we should vote them all out. Nancy Pelosi — vote em all out.” —interview with Vox’s Tara Golshan.
Theresa Gasper, Ohio’s 10th Congressional District
“Although this discussion is premature, I would support new leadership in the House.” —statement to the Dayton Daily News
Danny O’Connor, Ohio’s 12th Congressional District
“We need new leadership on the Democratic side of things too.” —campaign ad