Updated: 5:19 p.m.
Alabama Rep. Bobby Bright on Thursday became the first Democratic incumbent to say publicly that he would not support Nancy Pelosi for Speaker in the next Congress.
“I am not going to vote for Nancy Pelosi as Speaker of the House,” Bright told WSFA-12, a Montgomery-based television station.
Bright was one of a handful of moderate House Democrats who until Thursday would not commit to voting for Pelosi (D-Calif.). He told the television station that neither Pelosi nor Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) would get his support for Speaker at the start of the 112th Congress.
“I will vote for someone, a centrist, who is much more like me and also much more like 80 percent of the people in America,” the former Montgomery mayor said.
In a statement released Thursday, Bright said, “The leadership of both parties is too divisive, and our country is paying the price.
“Neither the Speaker nor the Republican leader has displayed the type of bipartisan cooperation required to build consensus and move our country forward,” Bright said in the statement. “As a result, we must look elsewhere for leadership. I cannot support either candidate for Speaker and would like to vote for a conservative centrist who has a track record of bridging divides. Putting an end to partisan politics shouldn’t have to wait any longer.”
Bright’s opponent, Republican Martha Roby, has made an issue of his January 2009 vote for Pelosi. Pelosi has served as Speaker since 2007.
Bright made headlines in August for joking that Pelosi might “get sick and die” before the next Congress and therefore not be Speaker. He later said he regretted the remark and said it was taken out of context.
As of Wednesday, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee had spent more to boost Bright’s campaign than on any other competitive House race. The DCCC has already spent $626,000 on the Alabama race, according to the latest independent expenditure reports filed by the committee, and it is likely that total will surpass $1 million before Nov. 2.
Roby told WSFA-12 that Bright should now answer whether he would vote for “whomever the Democrats nominated” for the top House job.
“If that’s the case, it’s going to be more of the same,” Roby said.
Bright has distanced himself from Pelosi in his television ads this cycle. One recent spot featured him side by side with Boehner and said that he “votes 80 percent of the time with the Republican leader.”
Majority Whip James Clyburn (D-S.C.) downplayed the significance of Bright’s comments Thursday, casting his as “just one vote” out of many in the Caucus. Clyburn insisted that Pelosi had strong support among her rank and file to continue in her current role.
“That’s no indication of anything other than that we have a very diverse Caucus which is a little bit different from the Republican Conference,” Clyburn said.
Clyburn added that he had given money to Bright’s re-election effort despite the fact that the Alabama Democrat often votes against his party. And Pelosi herself has contributed to Bright’s campaign: According to Open Secrets, she has given $10,000 through her leadership political action committee.