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Democrats Who Ran Anti-Pelosi Campaigns Show Signs of Cracking

Two in New Jersey, one in Michigan leave door open to supporting Pelosi after spurning her during campaign

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., conducts her weekly news conference in the Capitol Visitor Center on November 15, 2018. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., conducts her weekly news conference in the Capitol Visitor Center on November 15, 2018. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Some of the newly elected Democratic House members who said on the campaign trail they would not support Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi for speaker have already shown signs of cracking as Pelosi ramps up the pressure for them not to divide the party before it even takes control of the chamber in January.

Rep.-elect Mikie Sherrill, a New Jersey Democrat who said during her campaign that the party needs “new leadership, and it starts at the top,” declined to affirm that statement after meeting with Pelosi on Friday.

“I’m sorry, I got to go,” Sherrill told reporters waiting outside the minority leader’s office. She directed reporters to her press aide.

In an interview on Oct. 11 on local TV, Sherrill blasted her Republican opponent for trying to tie her to Pelosi at a debate.

“I don’t support Nancy Pelosi. I put out a commercial saying that I don’t support Nancy Pelosi,” Sherrill said.

The New Jersey Democrat is one of a handful of freshman Democrats who have softened their opposition to the caucus’s likely choice for speaker in January.

Rep.-elect Andy Kim, another New Jersey Democrat, defeated Rep. Tom MacArthur on a platform that included ushering in a “new generation of leaders” in both parties.

But he dodged a Philadelphia Inquirer reporter’s question about his previous opposition to Pelosi and whether anything had changed.

“Right now I’m not making any commitments,” Kim said. “I certainly wanted a new generation of leadership, and that’s certainly still something I want.”

Haley Stevens, an incoming freshman member from Michigan, had also signaled during the campaign she would not vote for Pelosi for speaker on the House floor.

But she kept her options on the table Friday before lawmakers and elected lawmakers, who’ve been at new member orientation this week, head home for Thanksgiving.

“I haven’t said no,” Stevens said of supporting Pelosi, CNN reported.

One new Democrat who has stuck to her guns in opposition to Pelosi is Virginia Rep.-elect Abigail Spanberger, whose opponent in the midterm elections, Rep. Dave Brat, invoked Pelosi’s name more than 20 times in their debate in October.

“I have tremendous respect for everything that Leader Pelosi has been able to accomplish thus far in her very distinguished career in Congress,” Spanberger said on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” on Monday. “But I do think it is time, as we have such an incredible level of divisiveness in our political rhetoric and discussions. We need new leaders in the conversations.”

The anti-Pelosi contingent led by Reps. Seth Moulton, Tim Ryan and others has promised to release a letter in advance of the Democratic Caucus’ leadership elections on Nov. 28 that it has enough enough signatories to block Pelosi in a floor vote.

Ryan said the number is somewhere in the mid-20s, but a few of those new and returning members who plan to vote against Pelosi on the floor are not expected to sign the letter.

Neither Ryan nor the other leaders of the Pelosi opposition bloc would reveal exactly how many signatures they have gathered, but they all noted they are still working on getting more.

Their goal is for the letter to push Pelosi to step aside, but that seems unlikely. If she doesn’t, they hope the opposition will provide cover for potential leaders who want to mount a direct challenge to Pelosi but are currently afraid to do so.

Ryan and Moulton, aware that white men mounting opposition to a woman becoming speaker, have all said they’d prefer another woman step up to the challenge.

Names they’ve floated include Ohio Rep. Marcia L. Fudge, one of the anti-Pelosi members, Illinois Rep. Cheri Bustos and California Reps. Karen Bass or Linda T. Sánchez.

“People are asking me to do it, and I am thinking about it,” Fudge told Thursday.

Watch: Pelosi Talks Midterm ‘Wave,’ Says She Has Votes for Speakership

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