Nancy Pelosi beats back challenge, is chosen as House Democratic leader – Washington Post
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (Calif.) on Wednesday won the race to lead the Democratic caucus for an eighth term, prevailing in a contest that became a vote of confidence in her continued stewardship and an early proxy battle over the future of the Democratic Party.
Pelosi easily toppled Rep. Tim Ryan (D-Ohio), a seven-term lawmaker who launched an upstart bid to lead House Democrats two weeks ago in response to the party’s disappointing November election results.
But Pelosi’s margin of victory, 134 votes to 63 for Ryan, signaled a large degree of discontent with her continued leadership after 14 years atop the caucus and, more broadly, with the Democratic policy agenda that many lawmakers feel has grown stale. While she cleared her self-declared margin of victory, a two-thirds majority, many Democrats were stunned that almost a third of the caucus was willing to vote for a backbench lawmaker with no major policy or political experience.
Many were left wondering whether a more seasoned Democrat could have actually toppled Pelosi, with several privately suggesting this would have to be Pelosi’s last term as leader. Ryan’s 63 votes marked the largest number of opposition votes Pelosi has faced in any leadership race since winning a deputy leadership position 15 years ago that set her on a course to become the first female House speaker.
Though they came up well short, Ryan and his band of supporters declared a symbolic victory in prompting Pelosi to make a series of proposals to elevate junior lawmakers and lead a more inclusive leadership table. They also declared that the party’s economic agenda, at times ignored by their presidential nominee, Hillary Clinton, and other Democrats, would move to the front and center to appeal across the country alongside the cultural issues that dominated the campaign.
“We’re going to win as Democrats if we have an economic message that resonates in every part of the country,” Ryan told reporters after his defeat. “We are disappointed because I like to win … But the party is better off,” he added.
An hour later, Pelosi appeared and publicly congratulated Ryan on running a good race. But, she said, “I think we’re at a time that is well beyond politics. It’s about the character of America.”
After gaining just six seats in the November elections —- after Pelosi publicly and privately suggested a gain of more than 20 — there will be 194 members of the House Democratic caucus. Four nonvoting delegates, including Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D. C.), were allowed to vote in Wednesday’s caucus elections.
Pelosi had set the expectations bar high by publicly declaring she has “more than two-thirds” of the votes locked up. She cleared that threshold on Wednesday, but Ryan’s tally will not go unnoticed.
His supporters believed that the closer Ryan got to between 60 and 80 votes, the more direct the signal to Pelosi that the rank-and-file is ready for her to develop a transition-of-power plan. At 76, she’s one of three septuagenarians leading the caucus, followed by 77-year-old Rep. Steny H. Hoyer (D-Md.), the minority whip; and 76-year-old Rep. James E. Clyburn (D-S.C.), the assistant to the leader.
Hoyer and Clyburn were unchallenged on Wednesday.
Republicans have vilified Pelosi in the past, believing that her West Coast liberalism does not translate into political victories. Party leaders were so gleeful that the National Republican Congressional Committee immediately hung a “Congrats Nancy!” poster atop a “Hire Pelosi” banner that has been affixed to Republican National Committee headquarters this week.