Rep. Seth Moulton, one of a handful of Democrats leading the crusade against House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi’s bid to reclaim the speaker’s gavel when Democrats take back the majority in January, caught heat at a town hall in his district on Monday.
“The majority of Americans want this change. The majority of Democrats want this change,” Moulton told constituents at a town hall in Amesbury, Massachusetts, to loud jeers of “No.”
Most of the constituents at the town hall Monday were there to ask other questions of the Massachusetts congressman, who won re-election with 65 percent of the vote in the 6th District. But a sizable number — roughly a third — were there to protest his calls for new leadership in the party, a position he has staked out for roughly two years.
Moulton has cited the Democrats’ sweeping victory in the midterm elections earlier this month, in which the party’s candidates won 56 percent of the combined vote nationwide, as a mandate to choose new leaders since many of the new members who flipped formerly GOP-held House seats campaigned on that premise.
WBZ at 11p — Congressman Seth Moulton holds Town Hall in Amesbury and his constituents want to talk to him about his battle with Nancy Pelosi. Rep Moulton, “The majority of Americans want this change. The majority of Democrats want this change”. Audience, “No!!”. pic.twitter.com/63b638P4T5— WBZ | CBS Boston News (@wbz) November 20, 2018
But Democratic voters seem split on the direction of their party’s leadership.
A CBS News poll published Monday found that 49 percent of Democratic respondents wanted their caucus to vote for Pelosi for speaker. Forty percent wanted someone else, while 10 percent said they didn’t know.
Some of Moulton’s critics have accused him of ditching Pelosi because of her age and gender, though the congressman and his allies in Congress have dismissed those claims and lavished praise on the minority leader’s record.
“I didn’t see Seth Moulton’s effort going this big,” Lori Stewart, the vice chair of the Salem Democrats, told the Boston Globe at the town hall. “His effort to go after Nancy at this point feels very sexist and ageist.”
Moulton has countered that he has advocated for entirely new leadership — including booting Pelosi’s deputies, presumed House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer of Maryland and presumed Majority Whip James E. Clyburn of South Carolina.
“This debate is not about men against women, young against old or progressives against centrists,” Moulton wrote in an op-ed for CNN on Tuesday. “It’s about whether we’re strong enough as a party to value the leaders who got us here while empowering the new voices and the emerging leaders who can get us to where we need to go. I believe we are.”
They have said they would prefer a woman to succeed Pelsoi as the House Democratic standard-bearer, considering the precarious optics of a group of mostly men forcing a woman from the most powerful position in the chamber.
Sixteen Democrats signed a letter released Monday saying they will vote against Pelosi for speaker on the House floor.
Their pitch did not attack Pelosi’s record. Instead, in the letter, they referred to the 78-year-old as “a historic figure whose leadership has been instrumental to some of our party’s most important legislative achievements.”
The letter shows exactly 14 elected Democrats opposed to Pelosi, not technically enough to block her, with Utah’s Ben McAdams and New York’s Anthony Brindisi leading in their respective races that remained uncalled Tuesday.
Pelosi could afford to lose exactly that many votes and still win the gavel.
Moulton and company had expected last week to get at least 20 signatures on the letter, so releasing it with only 16 suggests their opposition movement could be weakening.
Notably absent from the letter is Ohio Rep. Marcia Fudge, who is considering challenging Pelosi for speaker. Fudge said she wasn’t deterred from running after meeting with Pelosi Friday but that she wouldn’t make a decision until after Thanksgiving.
At his town hall Monday, at least one supporter told the Globe she was “loving Seth Moulton” until his recent battle with party leaders.
“The fact that he is dividing us at a time when we have this resounding blue wave, I just can’t support him,” Isa Leshko, who led an effort to fill Moulton’s event with pro-Pelosi protesters, told the Globe.
But the Moulton-led coalition argued in its letter that Democrats won the majority “on the backs of candidates who said that they would support new leadership” and that voters want to see change in Washington.
“We promised to change the status quo, and we intend to deliver on that promise,” they wrote. “Therefore, we are committed to voting for new leadership in both our Caucus meeting and on the House Floor.”
Democrats will vote within their own caucus on party leadership races after Thanksgiving.
— Lindsey McPherson contributed to this report.
Watch: Pelosi Talks Midterm ‘Wave,’ Says She Has Votes for Speakership