Against Pelosi? Maybe Not

By Jim Ellis

Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA)

Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA)

July 24 2018 — Several media stories have already been written about Democratic House candidates reportedly saying they will not support Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) for leadership elections scheduled in November. Their actual utterances require closer examination, however.

The Vox news organization tallied the list of such candidates earlier in the month and found 25 who they record as stating opposition to Rep. Pelosi. But examining the actual candidates’ statements indicate that most are leaving themselves some wiggle room when it comes to actually voting against her, while many others in this group are simply not in a strong position to win.

According to Vox, the following Democrats have clearly stated their intention not to support Pelosi for a leadership position, including Speaker:

AR-2: State Rep. Clarke Tucker (D-Little Rock)
Opponent: Rep. French Hill (R-Little Rock)
Race Outlook: Likely Hill
• Tucker is running a television ad opening with a statement that he will not vote for Nancy Pelosi.

CA-39: Retired Naval Officer Gil Cisneros
Opponent: Former Assemblywoman Young Kim (R)
Incumbent: Rep. Ed Royce (R-Yorba Linda) – retiring
Race Outlook: Toss-up
• When asked in a Politico interview if he would support Pelosi, Cisneros answered, “No.” Then he thanked her for serving California, but said new leadership is needed.

ME-2: State Rep. Jared Golden (D-Lewiston)
Opponent: Rep. Bruce Poliquin (R-Oakland/Bangor)
Race Outook: Poliquin Favored
• Vox quotes Golden in an interview with the Lewiston Sun Journal as saying he has “no intention of voting for Nancy Pelosi. None at all.”

NC-9: Businessman Dan McCready
Opponent: Baptist former Pastor Mark Harris
Incumbent: Rep. Bob Pittenger (R-Charlotte) – defeated in Republican primary
Race Outlook: Toss-up

• Vox quotes McCready in a Washington Post interview: “I’ve said since day one that I wouldn’t vote for Nancy Pelosi as speaker.”

NC-13: University Regent Kathy Manning
Opponent: Rep. Ted Budd (R-Advance)
Outlook: Budd Favored
• Vox quotes Manning in a Medlum post saying that, “I cannot vote for more of the same, and I cannot support Nancy Pelosi or Paul Ryan to lead Congress.”

NJ-11: Attorney Mikie Sherrill
Opponent: State Assemblyman Jay Webber (R-Morristown)
Incumbent: Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-Morristown) – retiring
Outlook: Toss-up; major Democratic conversion target
• Vox quotes Sherrill in an interview with the New Jersey Globe: “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.” The “either” reference was stating that she would oppose Speaker Paul Ryan if he were seeking re-election.

OH-1: Hamilton County Clerk of Courts Aftab Pureval
Opponent: Rep. Steve Chabot (R-Cincinnati)
Outlook: Chabot Favored
• Vox finds Pureval answering a question posed by a Cincinnati Enquirer reporter: “Will I support Nancy Pelosi for Speaker? The answer is ‘no.’ ”

WV-3: State Senator Richard Ojeda (D-Logan)
Opponent: State House Majority Whip Carol Miller (R-Huntington)
Outlook: Trending toward Toss-up
• Quoting from an op-ed that Sen. Ojeda wrote, “Nancy Pelosi is an absolute train wreck for the Democratic Party and for working-class families.” Vox indicates that he firmly told the Atlantic Magazine that he would not vote for Ms. Pelosi.

Others are not so unequivocal. The succeeding list of individuals in competitive situations is making statements suggesting they won’t vote for Pelosi, but don’t actually say such. Rather, more circumspect comments like, “we need new leadership” (usually a reference to both parties), etc., are stated. Contrasting with the others previously mentioned, candidates in the following group making similar comments don’t exactly say they would oppose Rep. Pelosi if the Democratic conference chooses her for Speaker should the party obtain the majority.
• IL-12: County State’s Attorney Brendan Kelly (vs. Rep. Mike Bost)
• KS-2: Ex-Gov nominee Paul Davis (open – Rep. Lynn Jenkins)
• MI-8: Ex-DoD official Elissa Slotkin (vs. Rep. Mike Bishop)
• NJ-2: State Sen. Jeff Van Drew (open – Rep. Frank LoBiondo)
• Y-22: Assemblyman Anthony Brindisi (vs. Rep. Claudia Tenney)
• OH-12: Recorder Danny O’Connor (Troy Balderson – 8/7 special)
• UT-4: Mayor Ben McAdams (vs. Rep. Mia Love)

Dan Kohl, a former executive with the Milwaukee Bucks NBA club and nephew of former US Sen. Herb Kohl (D-WI), was even more specific in an interview with his local Fox affiliate, saying: “if I’m elected to Congress, I would not vote for Nancy Pelosi as leader of the Democrats.” This doesn’t say he would vote against her for Speaker, however, if such should be the vote. Kohl is opposing two-term Wisconsin Rep. Glenn Grothman (R-Glenbeulah/Fond du Lac).

The following candidates have either said they would specifically not support Pelosi or want a change in leadership, but are clearly not favored to win their races at this time:
• CA-22: Attorney Andrew Janz (vs. Rep. Devin Nunes)
• GA-7: Businessman David Kim* (vs. Rep. Rob Woodall)
• IA-4: Paralegal JD Scholten (vs. Rep. Steve King)
• MT-AL: Ex-state Rep. Kathleen Williams (vs. Rep. Greg Gianforte)
• NY-11: Healthcare executive Max Rose (vs. Rep. Dan Donovan)
• OH-4: Retired teacher Janet Garrett (vs. Rep. Jim Jordan)
• OH-7: Non-profit executive Ken Harbaugh (vs. Rep. Bob Gibbs)
• OH-10: Businesswoman Theresa Gasper (vs. Rep. Mike Turner)
• VA-7: Retired CIA officer Abigail Spanberger (vs. Rep. Dave Brat)
* in a Democratic run-off election today

When actually looking at the candidates who are saying they won’t vote for Rep. Pelosi for either a Democratic leadership position or Speaker, and determining their electoral prospects as favorable, the list of definitive Pelosi opponents really drops to three: Cisneros (CA-39), McCready (NC-9), Sherrill (NJ-11). Should Mr. Ojeda’s (WV-3) fundraising improve thus potentially positioning himself to win, he could join this list.

The list does not count Pennsylvania incumbent Rep. Conor Lamb (D-Pittsburgh). During his special election victory in District 18 earlier this year, Lamb indicated that he would not support Pelosi. He has not yet made such a declaration in his District 17 race, a Pittsburgh suburban seat, against fellow Rep. Keith Rothfus (R-Sewickley), however.

Therefore, the premise that Rep. Pelosi would experience widespread defections among Democrats in a race for Speaker should such a vote occur seems to be overblown conjecture at this point in time.

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