An Ohio Congressman has launched a long-shot campaign to oust House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi as Democrats struggle to craft a coherent post-election message.
Ohio Representative Tim Ryan launched his campaign for House Minority Leader in a letter to House Democrats, suggesting it was time to “bring a new voice into leadership” following Donald Trump’s defeat of Hillary Clinton and a poor showing by Democrats in House and Senate races across the country.
“While having a position in Democratic leadership has never been my life’s ambition, after this election I believe we all need to reevaluate our roles within the caucus, the Democratic Party, and our country,” Ryan wrote. “That is why I am announcing my run for minority leader.”
The leadership election, which will be conducted by secret-ballot on November 30, will be a test of House Democrats’ satisfaction with Pelosi, who publicly declared that she already has the support of more than two-thirds of the Democratic caucus.
“Without even asking anybody for a vote, I have over two-thirds of the caucus supporting me,” she said at a news conference. “When — it’s a funny thing in a caucus or any place, when somebody challenges you, your supporters turn out both internally in the caucus and in the country.”
A senior Democratic aide dismissed Ryan’s candidacy as nothing more than a publicity stunt.
“Tim Ryan has floated a run for Ohio governor in 2014, senator in 2016 and Ohio governor in 2018. Many believe this run, destined for failure, is a mere publicity stunt to lay the groundwork for a run for governor.”
Pelosi has served as the House Democratic Leader for nearly ten years, including a four year term as Speaker of the House before the disastrous 2010 midterm election handed control of Congress to the Republicans. She represents California’s 12th congressional district, comprising most of the city of San Francisco, and has served in Congress since 1987.
Despite the Democrats’ historic losses in the 2010 midterm election, Pelosi handily beat back a challenge by then-North Carolina Representative Heath Shuler.
While Pelosi may be able to fend off Ryan’s challenge because of the strong support for her among the more liberal members of the caucus, as well as her ability to fundraise due to her deep connections to billionaires and the establishment, a strong showing by Ryan could permanently damage Pelosi’s hold on the leadership position.
In 1969, Arizona Representative Mark Udall launched a campaign to unseat Speaker John McCormack (D-MA), who had served as Speaker since 1961 and alternatively served as majority leader and minority whip for 21 years. While the campaign was unsuccessful, discontent among younger members of the caucus continued to grow, and McCormack decided not to seek re-election in 1970.
Ryan, a seven-term Congressman, represents Ohio’s 13th congressional district, centered in the city of Youngstown.
The election results between Clinton and Trump in Ohio’s 13th congressional district epitomize why Democrats lost the presidential election and failed to make any significant gains in Congress.
A predominantly white, working-class area of Ohio, President Obama carried Mahoning County (Youngstown) in 2012 with more than 63% (approximately 30,000 votes). Hillary Clinton was unable to gather more than 50% of the vote, and bested Donald Trump there by fewer than 3,000 votes.
The outcome of the election for House Minority Leader will send a clear signal as to what direction the Democratic Party intends to follow: continued support for a House Leader heavily connected to billionaires and the rest of the establishment, or support for a challenger pledging to reach out to the white, working-class voters across the country who gave the far-left Democratic Party a historic rebuke.
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