50 Democratic candidates say they would oppose Pelosi as House speaker


WASHINGTON — As Democrats battle to retake control of Congress in November, their leader — Nancy Pelosi — could also be facing a coming fight of her own.

Fifty Democrats running for the House say they won't support the California lawmaker for speaker, according to an NBC News survey of candidates and their public statements.

At least 41 of the party's nominees for House seats have declared they will not back Pelosi and nine incumbent Democratic lawmakers are on the record opposing her.

The most recent voice to the chorus came Thursday, when Michigan Democrat Rashida Tlaib, who is on track to become the first Muslim woman in Congress, said she would "probably not" support Pelosi because "she doesn't speak about the issues that are important to the families of the 13th congressional district, and they are a priority for me."

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Rashida Tlaib
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Rashida Tlaib

In this Nov. 6, 2008 file photo, Rashida Tlaib, a Democrat, is photographed outside the Michigan Capitol in Lansing, Mich. The Michigan primary victory of Tlaib, who is expected to become the first Muslim woman and Palestinian-American to serve in the U.S. Congress, is rippling across the Middle East. In the West Bank village where Tlaib’s mother was born, residents are greeting the news with a mixture of pride and hope that she will take on a U.S. administration widely seen as hostile to the Palestinian cause.

(AP Photo/Al Goldis, File)

In this Wednesday, Aug. 8, 2018 photo, Fadwa Tlaib, an aunt of Rashida Tlaib points to a young Rashida in a 1987 picture with her mother Fatima and brother Nader, at the family house, in the West Bank village of Beit Ur al-Foqa. The Michigan primary victory of Tlaib, who is expected to become the first Muslim woman and Palestinian-American to serve in the U.S. Congress, is rippling across the Middle East. In the West Bank village where Tlaib’s mother was born, residents are greeting the news with a mixture of pride and hope that she will take on a U.S. administration widely seen as hostile to the Palestinian cause. (AP Photo/Nasser Nasser)
My girl.
No number of opponent signs can wipe our smiles of hope.
Just voted with my son Adam. #MakingHistoryTogether
Two of my former teachers canvassing for us today.
A beautiful day...so excited. #2days volunteer at www.rashidaforcongress.com
So Yousif came with me to one of our senior luncheons and we met Mother Williams who turned 104 years old (MashAllah). Yousif turns to me and says, "I thought you died at 100." Everyone laughed. I love being with the people I will fight and serve in Congress.
Eid Mubarak from my family to yours. @adamtlaib @fayez492
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An additional 34 Democratic nominees are neither for nor against Pelosi, who has led her party in Congress since 2003.

The significant opposition is a sign of the movement for a generational change in Democratic leadership on the Hill — some believe that Pelosi should step aside so younger members of the party can move up in its ranks. The majority are Democrats running in Republican voting areas, where the minority leader is despised by the GOP. And some of it stems from the ascendant progressive movement, which wants to promote different policies and take a more aggressive approach in Congress to the Republicans and to President Donald Trump.

The anti-Pelosi contingent runs from competitive districts won by Hillary Clinton in 2016 to areas overwhelmingly carried by Trump. And among recruits in the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee's "Red-to-Blue" program for targeted districts, 21 candidates say they will not vote for Pelosi as leader, 20 are neither against nor for and four support her. NBC could not find positions for the other 11 candidates and their campaigns did not respond to repeated requests for comment.

For her part, Pelosi has not asked anyone to back her for House speaker should Democrats win the House in November, her office said.

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Nancy Pelosi through the years
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Nancy Pelosi through the years
WASHINGTON, DC - MAY 8: File photo dated 08 May, 1996 shows US Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi, D-CA, speaking during a Capitol Hill press conference in Washington, DC. House Democratic leader Dick Gephardt (R, D-MO) is expected to announce 07 November, 2002 that he will not seek another term after the Republican opponents took both the House of Representatives and the Senate in mid-term elections 05 November. One of two Democrats vying to fill the spot is is Minority Whip Nancy Pelosi; the other is chairman of the Democratic caucus Martin Frost (D, TX). (Photo credit should read J. DAVID AKE/AFP/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - MAY 20: US President Bill Clinton signs the Ryan White Comprehensive AIDS Resources Emergency Act Amendments of 1996 20 May at the White House in Washington DC. Standing behind Clinton are (L-R) Jeanne White, mother of Ryan, White House Aide Patsy Fleming, Sen. Bill Frist (R-TN), Rep. Henry Waxman(D-CA), Rep. Nancy Pelosi(D-CA). (Photo credit should read CHUCK KENNEDY/AFP/Getty Images)
UNITED STATES - JUNE 25: HOUSE APPROPRIATIONS: Ranking member Nancy Pelosi ,D-Calif., during the House Appropriations,Foreign Operations subcommittee markup of FY 98 foreign operations appropriations. (Photo by Douglas Graham/Congressional Quarterly/Getty Images)
SLUG:NA/BAILOUT DATE:9/26/08 WASHINGTON, DC CREDIT: DOMINIC BRACCO II From left, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), and House Financial Services Committee Chairman Barney Frank (D-MA) speak during a press conference about legislation for a bailout of the financial crisis on Capitol Hill on Sept. 26, 2008. (Photo by Dominic Bracco Ii/The Washington Post/Getty Images)
Washington, UNITED STATES: US President George W. Bush is applauded by Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (R) and Vice President Dick Cheney (L) as he delivers the State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress at the Capitol in Washington 23 January 2007. AFP PHOTO/Larry Downing/Pool (Photo credit should read LARRY DOWNING/AFP/Getty Images)
UNITED STATES - OCTOBER 10: WHIP RACE--Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., left, victor in the Democratic Whip race, talks to reporters and celebrates with supporting members after the Democratic caucus elected her to replace outgoing Whip David E. Bonior, D-Mich., who is running for governor of Michigan. (Photo by Scott J. Ferrell/Congressional Quarterly/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, : Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA,L) newly elected Democratic Minority Leader raises her hand with outgoing leader Dick Gephardt (D-MO) 14 November, 2002 on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. Pelosi's election marks the first time in the history of the US Congress that a woman will lead her party. AFP PHOTO MIKE THEILER (Photo credit should read MIKE THEILER/AFP/Getty Images)
UNITED STATES - JULY 26: House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) speaks to the California delegate breakfast in Boston, Massachusetts on the first day of the Democratic National Convention, July 26, 2004. (Photo by Chris Kleponis/Bloomberg via Getty Images)
UNITED STATES - FEBRUARY 02: STATE OF THE UNION ADDRESS--House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and 2004 presidential candidate Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., talk before President George W. Bush's State of the Union Address to a joint session of Congress. (Photo by Scott J. Ferrell/Congressional Quarterly/Getty Images)
Congressman John Lewis, Congresswoman Maxine Waters, Harry Belafonte, Jessie Jackson and Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi (Photo by Moses Robinson/WireImage)
WASHINGTON - JUNE 04: U.S. Speaker of the House Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) addresses the 2008 American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) Policy Conference at the Washington Convention Center June 4, 2008 in Washington, DC. Democratic U.S. presidential hopefuls Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-NY) and Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL) are scheduled to speak to the same event. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON - MAY 22: Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) holds her weekly news conference at the U.S. Capitol May 22, 2009 in Washington, DC. Pelosi turned the news conference into an opportunity to list what she and the Democratic House leadership considered their successes of the 111th Congress' first session. She took a handful of questions about her upcomming trip to China and her statements about the CIA. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
UNITED STATES - JULY 23: House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a Democrat from California, right, and Nuri al-Maliki, Iraq's prime minister, shakes hands while addressing the media before a meeting at the Capitol in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Thursday, July 23, 2009. Maliki pledged to mend sectarian divisions and fight corruption as he urged the international community to continue providing support to his nation. (Photo by Brendan Hoffman/Bloomberg via Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC- Jan. 05: House Speaker John A. Boehner, R-Ohio, accepts the gavel from outgoing House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., as the 112th Congress convenes at the U.S. Capitol. (Photo by Scott J. Ferrell/Congressional Quarterly/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - JUNE 23: House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) works with staff before a vote on the House floor during a typically busy day on Capitol Hill in Washington DC, Thursday, June 23, 2011. (Photo by Melina Mara/ The Washington Post via Getty Images)
UNITED STATES â DECEMBER 1: House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., holds her weekly on camera news conference in the Capitol on Thursday, Dec. 1, 2011. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)
BEVERLY HILLS, CA - APRIL 22: Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa (L) and Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi attends the Public Counsel's 2012 William O. Douglas Dinner at The Beverly Hilton Hotel on April 22, 2012 in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo by Imeh Akpanudosen/Getty Images)
CHARLOTTE, NC - SEPTEMBER 05: House Minority Leader Sen. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) waves as she takes the stage during day two of the Democratic National Convention at Time Warner Cable Arena on September 5, 2012 in Charlotte, North Carolina. The DNC that will run through September 7, will nominate U.S. President Barack Obama as the Democratic presidential candidate. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - NOVEMBER 14: House Minority Leader Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) speaks to the media as female House Democrats gather around during a news conference at the U.S. Capitol, on November 14, 2012 in Washington, DC. Leader Pelosi said that she has decided continue to lead the House Democrats and does not wish to retire at this time. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
U.S. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, a Democrat from California, bottom center, stands for a photograph with Democratic women of the House on the steps of the U.S. Capitol Building in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Wednesday, Jan. 7, 2015. 65 House Democratic women are part of the 114th Congress, the largest number of women in a party Caucus in the history of the Congress of the United States. Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images
LOS ANGELES, CA - FEBRUARY 07: (L-R) Former Vice President of the United States Al Gore, Apple's SVP of Internet Software and Services, Eddy Cue, CEO of Apple Tim Cook, music producer Jimmy Iovine and Minority Leader of the United States House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi attend the Pre-GRAMMY Gala and Salute to Industry Icons honoring Martin Bandier at The Beverly Hilton Hotel on February 7, 2015 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Lester Cohen/WireImage)
UNITED STATES - JULY 15: Vice President Joe Biden and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., leave a meeting with House Democrats in the Capitol Visitor Center where Biden briefed members on the nuclear deal with Iran, July 15, 2015. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)
UNITED STATES - JULY 14: House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., introduces presidential candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton to the press for her on the Iran nuclear deal following her meeting with House Democrats during their weekly caucus meeting in the U.S. Capitol on Tuesday, July 14, 2015. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)
WASHINGTON, DC - Democratic House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi works with staff in her House Leadership office during a typically hectic legislative day on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC on Wednesday May 18, 2016. (Photo by Melina Mara/The Washington Post via Getty Images)
Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton (L) walks with House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi after attending a meeting with the House Democratic Caucus on June 22, 2016 at the US Capitol in Washington, DC. / AFP / MANDEL NGAN (Photo credit should read MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)
UNITED STATES - JULY 28: House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi speaks at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia on Thursday, July 28, 2016. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)
WASHINGTON, DC - SEPTEMBER 14: House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), chats with House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI), during a memorial service to honor the late Rep. Mark Takai (D-HI), 49, who died from pancreatic cancer last July, at the US Capitol September 14, 2016 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - SEPTEMBER 21: (L-R) Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R-WI), House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) drive nails into a piece of lumber at the 'First Nail Ceremony' September 21, 2016 outside the U.S. Capitol in Washington, DC. The ceremony marked the official launch of construction on the Inaugural platform where the next President of the United States will take the oath of office on Friday, January 20, 2017. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - SEPTEMBER 22: House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) answers questions during her weekly press conference at the U.S. Capitol September 22, 2016 in Washington, DC. Pelosi answered questions on a range of topics, including congressional negotiations on a new continuing resolution. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)
U.S. Vice President-elect Mike Pence, right, shakes hands with House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, a Democrat from California, following a meeting in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Thursday, Nov. 17, 2016. During their closed-door meeting, Pelosi expressed strong concerns about Trump's decision to name former Breitbart News chief Steve Bannon to be his chief White House strategist, and asked him to reconsider the appointment. Photographer: Chip Somodevilla/Pool via Bloomberg
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"Leader Pelosi has always enjoyed the overwhelming support of House Democrats and that will continue into the majority she's so focused on winning," her deputy chief of staff, Drew Hammill, said Thursday when asked about the NBC News survey.

Though she sealed her place in history by becoming the first woman speaker, it's Pelosi's longevity that also sets her apart.

Pelosi is the longest serving leader in either party since Democrat Sam Rayburn and Republican Joseph Martin ruled Congress from the 1940s through the '50s. By the end of this year, three of her GOP counterparts will have come and gone: Dennis Hastert; John Boehner; and Paul Ryan.

Pelosi was first chosen as speaker in 2007. If Democrats successfully take back the House and elect her as speaker, she would be the first to lose the gavel and win it back in over six decades. (Rayburn was the last in 1955.)

Despite the opposition, there's still no viable alternative to Pelosi. Many candidates in the undecided category said they're waiting to see who, if anyone, comes forward to take her on — and only one could-be-contender has done so publicly so far.

Rep. Tim Ryan of Ohio, who challenged Pelosi for leadership after the 2016 election, indicated this week that he may consider another bid. "I've not closed the door on it," Ryan told MSNBC.

Pelosi, for her part, has defended her stewardship of the Democratic caucus. "I'm a master legislator," she said last year, adding that the millions of dollars the GOP has spent "demonizing" her to voters shows that she's an effective leader.

And while NBC's research shows there are a sizable number of Democrats opposing Pelosi, the procedure for electing the leader can still provide an opportunity for shifting of stances. After the 2016 election, 63 Democrats opposed Pelosi in a closed-door caucus meeting — but only four voted against her publicly on the House floor.

The process tripped up Ohio Democratic candidate Danny O'Connor, who told MSNBC's Chris Matthews he would "vote for whoever the Democratic Party puts forward" on the floor. O'Connor later revised his statement to oppose Pelosi in all circumstances, but that didn't stop Republicans from using it in an attack ad against him.

And while some, like O'Connor, have worked to cement their anti-Pelosi position, others, including New York's Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, have softened in their stance.

Before her stunning primary victory over Rep. Joe Crowley in June, Ocasio-Cortez said she wanted to "see new options" in Democratic leadership. But afterward, she talked to Pelosi.

"She said she loved working with Joe, but that she's actually always wanted younger women in Congress," Ocasio-Cortez told MSNBC's "Meet the Press Daily" of Pelosi. "I think she's a candidate to consider."

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