Pelosi Returns as Speaker,
But By Just Two Votes

By Jim Ellis

Jan. 4, 2019 — California US Rep. Nancy Pelosi was returned to the Speaker’s office yesterday in a carefully orchestrated vote that allowed her to claim the gavel by a two-vote margin, while simultaneously allowing several incoming Democratic members to keep their campaign pledge to not support the returning national political leader. Pelosi received 220 votes from her conference, two more than the minimum majority figure of 218.

Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) returns as House Speaker

Fifteen Democrats voted for someone other than Pelosi in the Speaker’s roll call or answered “present.” Freshman Rep. Jeff Van Drew (D-NJ) simply voted “no” when his name was called but was recorded as voting present.

Not all of the Pelosi dissenters were freshman. Of the 15, veteran Reps. Jim Cooper (D-TN), Ron Kind (D-WI), Kathleen Rice (D-NY), and Kurt Schrader (D-OR) voted differently.

Cooper voted present. Rep. Kind supported Rep. John Lewis (D-GA), taking a page from Sen. Kyrsten Sinema’s (D-AZ) political book when she was in the House. During her three terms, Sinema voted for Rep. Lewis for Speaker to honor his civil rights career. Rep. Rice, an outspoken critic of Speaker Pelosi, voted for Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams. Schrader voted for Ohio Rep. Marcia Fudge (D-Cleveland). Just after the November election, Rep. Fudge briefly considered the idea of running for Speaker.

The remainder were freshmen or, in the case of Rep. Conor Lamb (D-PA), serving an initial full term. Lamb was originally elected in a March 2018 special election to fill a vacancy. He voted for Rep. Joseph P. Kennedy III (D-MA).

Below are the freshman members who did not support Speaker Pelosi, listing their victory percentage and the Republican they are replacing:

  • Rep. Anthony Brindisi (D-NY-22): 50.1 percent over incumbent Claudia Tenney (R-New Hartford)
  • Rep. Jason Crow (D-CO-6): 54.1 percent defeating Rep. Mike Coffman (R-Aurora)
  • Rep. Joe Cunningham (D-SC-1): 50.1 percent over state Rep. Katie Arrington (R) who denied Rep. Mark Sanford (R-Charleston) re-nomination in the Republican primary
  • Rep. Jared Golden (D-ME-2): 50.5 percent, though placing behind Rep. Bruce Poliquin (R-Oakland/Bangor) in the general election but won the seat under the Ranked Choice Voting system that gives voters who supported losing candidates the opportunity of making additional choices for the office. The RCV takes effect if no candidate receives a majority of the vote. Ballots are recounted until the RCV’s — commonly referred to as an “instant run-off” — new totals yield a candidate obtaining majority support.
  • Rep. Ben McAdams (D-UT-4): 50.1 percent over Rep. Mia Love (R-Saratoga Springs)
  • Rep. Max Rose (D-NY-11): 52.2 percent topping Rep. Dan Donovan (R-Staten Island)
  • Rep. Mikie Sherrill (D-NJ-11): 56.8 percent against state Assemblyman Jay Webber (R). Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-Morristown) did not seek re-election.
  • Rep. Elissa Slotkin (D-MI-8): 50.6 percent over Rep. Mike Bishop (R-Lansing)
  • Rep. Abigail Spanberger (D-VA-7): 50.3 percent opposite Rep. Dave Brat (R-Glen Allen)

Speaker Pelosi, however, was not the only leader who failed to receive full support from her party. Six Republicans chose not to vote for Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) when their names were called.

They are, along with their Nov. 6 victory percentages:

  • Rep. Justin Amash (R-MI): 54.4 percent
  • Rep. Andy Biggs (R-AZ): 59.4 percent
  • Rep. Paul Gosar (R-AZ): 55.2 percent
  • Rep. Jody Hice (R-GA): 62.9 percent
  • Rep. Thomas Massie (R-KY): 62.2 percent
  • Rep. Scott Perry (R-PA): 51.3 percent

All but Rep. Amash voted for Ohio Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Urbana), a key leader of the Freedom Caucus. Amash supported Kentucky Rep. Thomas Massie (R-Garrison). Of this group, only Rep. Perry faced a competitive general election but that was from a newly re-apportioned district that made his seat more Democratic than his previous CD.

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