Tim Ryan weighs new challenge to Pelosi amid Democratic unrest
Rep. Tim Ryan is considering taking on House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi again in November despite previously ruling out the idea — the latest turn in the caucuswide chaos unleashed by Rep. Joe Crowley’s shocking primary loss last month.
Ryan, who won one-third of the caucus’ backing in a long-shot bid following the 2016 election, would be the first challenger to emerge against Pelosi in the post-Crowley world. Crowley, the No. 4 House Democrat defeated by progressive insurgent Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, was seen by many in the caucus as Pelosi’s heir apparent.
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“The Crowley race changed a lot for a lot of us,” Ryan (D-Ohio) said in an interview Monday. “There was a lot of assumption that he was going to be moving forward in leadership, and so losing that election put everybody in a state of mind to reevaluate what was happening.”
Ryan’s potential reemergence is just one of the many machinations happening in the Democratic Caucus right now, as Ocasio-Cortez’s victory in New York underscores the growing unrest with Pelosi and the party’s leadership.
Democrats return Tuesday for what’s expected to be a chaotic three-week sprint as members consider how to move up or enter the leadership hierarchy following a flurry of phone calls gaming out strategies over the weeklong holiday recess.
Rep. Ben Ray Luján (D-N.M.), chairman of Democrats’ campaign arm, is telling colleagues he’d be interested in the whip position if the job is up for grabs in a House majority, according to multiple Democratic sources. Luján’s office did not return requests for comment.
Reps. Linda Sánchez, the No. 5 ranking Democrat, and Barbara Lee are eyeing Crowley’s job as caucus chairman, although neither California Democrat has formally declared.
“It’s as if the snow globe was shaken a bit, and I think members are having lots of individual conversations,” Rep. Mark Pocan (D-Wis.), co-chairman of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, said in an interview.
Two weeks later, Crowley’s defeat is still reverberating deep within the caucus, culminating in what Democrats describe as a perfect storm for members long frustrated by the static leadership hierarchy but who previously saw little opportunity for change.
Pelosi and her No. 2, Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), have led the caucus for more than 15 years. Rep. Jim Clyburn (D-S.C.), the assistant minority leader, has held the No. 3 spot in the caucus for more than a decade.
Lawmakers and Democratic aides said they see July as a critical month for anyone wanting to mount a successful leadership race in November.
The House will be in for three weeks this month — providing valuable face time for lawmakers looking to lock up support — before departing Washington for a five-week recess in August. The chamber will also be dark for chunks of September and October as members prioritize time back in their districts campaigning for the midterm elections.
Crowley’s defeat created a rare opening in leadership at exactly the moment that Democrats have their best shot in years at winning back the House, and Pelosi is facing rising calls to hang it up.
The confluence of events has members salivating at the potential to rocket into a leadership structure that normally can take a decade or more to break into.
Ryan said several colleagues have approached him in the weeks since Crowley’s primary to ask him to consider another dark-horse leadership bid. Although Ryan wouldn’t commit to challenging Pelosi, multiple sources within the caucus have told POLITICO over the past several days he seems to be strongly leaning that way.
“I wouldn’t get in unless I thought I could win,” Ryan said, highlighting his travel for Democratic candidates in GOP-leaning areas in South Carolina, West Virginia and Indiana. “I’m not going to do it just to do it.”
Pelosi called Ryan “inconsequential” in a May interview with Rolling Stone, just released Sunday.
“Leader Pelosi’s sole focus is on winning the House,” Pelosi’s spokesman, Drew Hammill, added in a statement. “The leader has not asked for support from members, but she is delighted with the support she is receiving from the caucus.”