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The Lone Leadership Hopeful Not Yet Backing Pelosi for Speaker

Most leadership candidates have made sure to let the press know they support Pelosi

Rep. Matt Cartwright, D-Pa., who is running for one of the three Democratic Policy and Communications Committee co-chair slots, is the only leadership candidate who has not yet committed to supporting Nancy Pelosi for speaker. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)
Rep. Matt Cartwright, D-Pa., who is running for one of the three Democratic Policy and Communications Committee co-chair slots, is the only leadership candidate who has not yet committed to supporting Nancy Pelosi for speaker. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

All but one House Democrat running for an elected leadership position is supporting Nancy Pelosi for speaker. 

The lone candidate who hasn’t yet backed the California Democrat in her quest to retake the gavel is Pennsylvania Rep. Matt Cartwright

“Congressman Cartwright is uncommitted on his vote for Speaker at this time, and we anticipate he will make his decision after speeches and presentations made in the Democratic Caucus meeting on November 28,” spokesman Jason Newton said.

The statement — which came before Rep. Marcia L. Fudge of Ohio, the only Democrat mulling a bid against Pelosi for speaker, announced she would not run — suggests that Cartwright will likely back Pelosi. He is running for one of the three co-chair slots on the Democratic Policy and Communications Committee. 

Cartwright’s decision to remain uncommitted is notable, however, because most of the members running for leadership positions have made a point to let the public and the press know they’re supporting Pelosi. 

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

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Several leadership candidates have issued statements or written letters in support of her. Some have even gone on cable news to talk her up. 

One of those Pelosi supporters, Rhode Island Rep. David Cicilline, even did an interview with Fox News on Nov. 17 to argue why she should be speaker again. Pelosi served as the first female speaker when Democrats last held the majority from 2007 to 2011.  

“She brought us the Affordable Care Act. She brought us Wall Street Reform. She brought us the repeal of ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,’” Cicilline said, not exactly playing to the network’s target audience. “She is an effective legislator. When you just won the Super Bowl, you don’t fire the quarterback.”

Cicilline, a current DPCC co-chair, is running for assistant Democratic leader, the No. 4 position, against Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chairman Ben Ray Luján, who’s also been extremely vocal about his support for Pelosi. 

Notably, when Pelosi in 2016 had an opportunity to pick the three members she wanted to serve as DPCC co-chairs, she chose Cartwright over Cicilline.

But a week later, the caucus moved to make the positions elected. Cicilline and Pelosi’s other two picks, Illinois Rep. Cheri Bustos and New York Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, won the election for DPCC. 

Bustos is now running for DCCC chair and Jeffries is running for caucus chair. Both have gone public with their support of Pelosi as their names have been floated among those who could run for speaker if Pelosi can’t get the votes she needs to be elected on the floor.

After his loss in 2016, Cartwright is giving a DPCC run another go. Five other candidates are also running for co-chair slots on the committee: Rep.-elect Chrissy Houlahan of Pennsylvania and Reps. Debbie Dingell of Michigan, Adriano Espaillat of New York and John Garamendi and Ted Lieu of California.

Pelosi added a curveball to the DPCC race by suggesting in a “Dear Colleague” letter Tuesday night that the caucus create a DPCC chair position in addition to the three co-chairs. She did not provide details on whether the position should be elected or appointed. Presumably the chair would rank higher than the co-chairs, but Pelosi did not specify.

“This change also reflects similar modifications that Senate Democrats are currently advancing,” she wrote. “This enhancement to the DPCC will position House Democrats to best take advantage of the new size and diversity of our caucus, bringing greater resources and staffing to this vital committee.”

Houlahan announced her support for Pelosi on CBS’s “Face the Nation” on Sunday, the same day she formally entered the DPCC race

Espaillat deployed a similar tactic, putting out a statement on Nov. 8 about backing Pelosi for speaker after he announced his DPCC bid a day earlier. 

New York Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney also issued a statement supporting Pelosi on Nov. 8, two days before announcing he was running for DCCC chair.

Letters galore

Letter signing has also been a common way leadership candidates have expressed their support for Pelosi — along with dozens of rank-and-file members and a plethora of outside groups

Dingell is on a letter of female supporters and Lieu on one from veterans. Both have also done interviews in which they’ve said they plan to vote for Pelosi. 

Garamendi was one of two leadership candidates on a letter that 14 pro-Pelosi Democrats wrote arguing against an idea her opponents had been pushing: to raise the threshold needed to receive the caucus nomination for speaker.

The other was Maryland Rep. Jamie Raskin, who is running for the caucus representative position reserved for a member who’s served five terms or less. Alabama Rep. Terri Sewell, who’s challenging him for the position, is also supporting Pelosi

Some of the leadership candidates, like Democratic Caucus vice chair candidate Pete Aguilar of California and DCCC chair candidate Suzan DelBene of Washington, don’t have readily findable public comments on Pelosi, but both of their offices confirmed they’re supporting her. 

Other as-yet-unmentioned leadership hopefuls who’ve expressed their support for Pelosi are caucus chair candidate Barbara Lee of California, caucus vice chair candidate  Katherine M. Clark of Massachusetts and DCCC chair candidate Denny Heck of Washington.

Despite all the endorsements Pelosi has received, the only two she has doled out so far are for her top deputies. She’s backing Maryland Rep. Steny H. Hoyer and South Carolina Rep. James E. Clyburn in uncontested races for majority leader and majority whip, respectively. 

Pelosi is unlikely to endorse in any of the other leadership races, which are all contested.  While those candidates’ quests will end after the caucus election Nov. 28, Pelosi’s will continue until the Jan. 3 floor vote for speaker. 

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