House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D., Calif.) has no plans to step down from her position atop the House Democratic caucus, despite a growing chorus calling for new leadership.
Democratic candidates are increasingly pledging to vote against Pelosi for leadership because of her "toxic" image in most of the country, the New York Times reports. Pelosi has not yet said for certain whether she will seek the speaker’s gavel if Democrats retake the House, but she said the party would be in chaos without her at the helm.
"If I was to walk away now, this caucus would be in such a musical chairs scenario," she said.
Pelosi insisted that she has a following not just in her deep-blue San Francisco district, but also nationwide.
"I am a master legislator, I am a shrewd politician and I have a following in the country that, apart from a presidential candidate, nobody else can claim," she said.
Democrats have, however, become more open about the problems with having Pelosi as leader. Paul Davis is running as a Democrat for an open House seat in Kansas, and he is opposed to Pelosi, saying a change is "badly needed" because current leaders are "toxic in this part of the country."
Former Democratic Rep. Brad Ashford, who is running to reclaim his seat in Nebraska, said it is becoming conventional wisdom for Democratic candidates not to express support for Pelosi.
"I was just in D.C. and that’s the advice everybody gives: Don’t say you’re for Pelosi," Ashford said.
Moderates looking to separate themselves from Pelosi’s liberalism, such as the recently elected Conor Lamb in Pennsylvania, aren’t the only problem facing the former speaker. Some on the left consider her to be a part of the Washington establishment that has held the party back from a radical transformation.
Rep. Kurt Schrader (D., Ore.) has encouraged candidates to oppose Pelosi, and he said liberals in his district like the fact that he opposes Pelosi’s continued leadership, even though he’s a moderate.
"I have liberals back home, the one thing they really like about me is the fact that I voted against Nancy," he said. "No matter what candidate you are, it’s not necessarily a bad message."
Marie Newman, who is running a primary challenge from the left against Rep. Daniel Lipinski (D., Ill.), has not declared her support for Pelosi.
"I would have to see who’s running," she said about whom she would back for speaker.
Whether anyone will mount a serious challenge against Pelosi remains to be seen. According to the Times, Rep. Joe Crowley (D., N.Y.) is "actively laying the groundwork to seek the leader’s job if Ms. Pelosi’s position becomes untenable."
Rep. Bill Pascrell Jr. (D., N.J.) gave Crowley a surprise endorsement earlier this month to be leader, saying the House’s culture was changing.
"A lot of new people will be coming in and I think we should start fresh," Pascrell said.
"[Pelosi] has taken a lot of crap from Republicans and Democrats and she’s really been above it all," he added.
Rep. Filemon Vela (D., Texas) supports Crowley because having Pelosi at the top hurts Democratic candidates in swing districts.
"Having Joe be the leader of this party next session would be a welcome change," Vela said.
As Crowley holds frequent meetings with younger members of the Democratic caucus, he has not said whether he has plans to take on Pelosi.
"I have been talking to my colleagues about what they and we can do to help put us in the majority," Crowley said.
Rep. Tim Ryan (D., Ohio) has also not ruled out challenging Pelosi, which he did in 2016 when he garnered more than 60 votes. He said Pelosi’s traditional advantage as a fundraiser is attenuated by new online fundraising tools that have helped House candidates.
"It weakens the leverage of party leaders," Ryan said.