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Pelosi Sees Opposition as Speaker      11/16 06:38

   WASHINGTON (AP) -- If it was up to most of the Democratic Party, Nancy 
Pelosi would be the obvious choice to become speaker of the House. But within 
the ranks of the chamber's Democratic majority, there's a small but persistent 
group pushing to topple her return as the first woman with the gavel.

   Pelosi appears be winning the outside game amassing endorsements from a 
who's who of the nation's Democrats, including former Vice President Al Gore 
and former Secretary of State John Kerry. Inside the Capitol she has support 
from influential lawmakers, Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga., the civil rights leader, 
and Rep. Adam Schiff of California, who's in line to chair the Intelligence 
Committee, among others.

   Most recently Pelosi got the nod from MoveOn.org as liberals sound the alarm 
against an overthrow being orchestrated by mostly centrist Democrats who want 
to prevent the San Franciscan from being the face of the party.

   "We strongly support and call on all members of the Democratic caucus to 
support @NancyPelosi for Speaker," the group tweeted Thursday. It noted in 
particular her work passing the Affordable Care Act. "Were it not for her 
skilled and effective leadership, the ACA would not be law today. Dems must 
reject attempts to defeat her and move caucus to the right."

   The show of strength is a reflection on Pelosi's 15-year tenure as party 
leader but also her place in history as the first woman to hold --- and 
potentially return --- to the speaker's office after an election that ushered 
in a record number of women candidates.

   It's not lost on supporters that a group made up of mostly men is leading 
the effort to oust her. On the list of 17 names who've signed onto a letter 
against her, just three are women.

   "Look, I'm supporting Pelosi," said Rep. Jim Clyburn of South Carolina, the 
third-ranking Democrat and an influential leader of the Congressional Black 
Caucus. "But I would never tell anybody not to run."

   Pelosi's opponents started rallying Thursday behind a possible contender, 
Rep. Marcia Fudge of Ohio, a prominent member of the Black Caucus who has 
indicated a willingness to challenge her. Others may jump in, when lawmakers 
return after Thanksgiving for first-round voting.

   Fudge, recently re-elected to a 7th term, is an ally of Ohio Democratic Rep. 
Tim Ryan, who mounted an unsuccessful campaign against Pelosi two years ago and 
is a leader of the current effort to topple her.

   With Rep. Seth Moulton, D-Mass., Rep. Kathleen Rice, D-N.Y., and others, the 
letter writers have yet to present their list publicly. They promise to do so 
soon, but Rep. Kurt Schrader, D-Ore., said they were hoping to add a few more 
signatures.

   Schrader said it's a "lie" that Pelosi already has secured enough support, 
and that he would back Fudge. "She has experience in running caucuses, fits the 
profile, I think, really well.  She's tough," he said.

   Rep.-elect Jeff Van Drew, D-N.J., said he signed the letter and is sticking 
and with his campaign promise to not vote for Pelosi --- "not in the caucus and 
not on the floor," he said.

   "There's something to be said for new ideas and showing that it's a change 
and having a different face," he said.

   Pelosi has fended off challenges before, but this one --- fueled by 
newcomers calling for change and frustrated incumbents who feel shut out of 
leadership after her many years at the helm --- poses perhaps the biggest 
threat yet.

   With a narrow Democratic majority, now at about 230 seats, she does not have 
much cushion to secure the 218 votes needed on the floor if all Republicans 
vote against her, as expected. Some House races remain undecided and the 
Democratic majority could grow slightly.

   There is a chance the math could shift in Pelosi's favor if lawmakers are 
absent or simply vote "present," meaning she would need fewer than 218 votes 
for an absolute majority. The full chamber will elect the next speaker Jan. 3.

   Pelosi has remained steadfast in her pursuit of the gavel and welcomed all 
challengers. Her latest catchphrase: "Come on in, the water's warm."

   The 78-year-old Californian said she has "overwhelming support" to become 
the next speaker.

   Asked if sexism might block her return, she countered that's a question for 
the mostly male lawmakers signing a letter against her.

   "If in fact there is any misogyny involved in it, it's their problem, not 
mine," Pelosi told reporters.

   The list includes a dozen incumbents and five newcomers, including two 
Democrats whose races have not yet been decided. Confirmed by an aide to one of 
the organizers, the list was first published in the Huffington Post.

   Allies of Pelosi have churned out endorsements daily, with support from 
incoming House committee chairmen; leaders of outside organizations, including 
women's groups and labor unions; and others who align with Democrats and 
provide resources for elections.

   Many attest to Pelosi's skills at fundraising for the party, corralling the 
caucus and delivering votes. Her supporters say now is not the time for 
infighting when voters expect Democrats to stand up to President Donald Trump.

   But Pelosi also acknowledges the discomfort some lawmakers face because 
she's the GOP's favorite election-year villain. Some 137,000 ads were run 
against her this election cycle, she said. "It makes it hard on the 
candidates," she conceded.

   Pointing to Democrats' midterm success --- they regained control of the 
House with their biggest midterm victories since Watergate --- she added, 
"Obviously those ads didn't work."

   "People don't even know who I am --- an Italian-American grandmother with 
lots of energy, a mother of five, a grandmother of nine --- who is here to do 
what's right for our future," said Pelosi.

   Democrats seeking to block Pelosi argue it's time to give younger lawmakers 
a chance to rise to high-level posts. They also say Republicans have done such 
a good job demonizing Pelosi that it's hard for Democrats to be elected in 
closely contested, moderate districts.

   Finding a consensus candidate could prove daunting, and lawmakers hold mixed 
views about the prospect of a floor fight as the opening act of the new 
Congress.

   Pelosi made history when she became the first female speaker of the House in 
2007. She assumed the post after Democrats took control of the House in midterm 
elections during former President George W. Bush's second term.


(KA)

 
 
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