The Democratic nominee in the year’s first special congressional election said today that he’d like his party to replace Nancy Pelosi as its leader in the House, a stance that could undercut one of the Republican Party’s major campaign plans in 2018.
In interviews with Pittsburgh’s two major newspapers, Democrat Conor Lamb, a former U.S. attorney running to represent Pennsylvania’s 18th congressional district, said that Congress needs “new leadership on both sides” and was clear that he meant an end to Pelosi’s 13-year role as House Democratic leader.
“My take is, if these people have been around for several years and they haven’t solved these problems that have been hanging around, it’s time for someone new to step up and get it done,” Lamb told the Pittsburgh Tribune.
He gave a similar answer to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, saying that Congress had not been “working for people,” citing the example of the opioid crisis gripping rural America.
“It’s more about the fact that I expect leaders to get results, and the result of our congressional leadership has been to have people in the district dissatisfied with their performance,” Lamb said.
Lamb’s answer did not take Republicans completely by surprise. With the departures of Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, and Harry M. Reid from the political scene, Pelosi has become the Democratic leader best-known and most disliked among swing voters.
The Congressional Leadership Fund, a super PAC aligned with House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.), made Pelosi the star of its multimillion-dollar ad buys last year during special House elections in Georgia’s 6th congressional district and in Montana. Corry Bliss, the CLF’s executive director, said that the PAC stood behind Republican nominee Rick Saccone.
“It’s laughable. Conor Lamb can say whatever he wants, but the truth is he would be nothing more than a rubber stamp for Pelosi’s liberal agenda,” said Bliss. “This election comes down to one choice – a foot soldier for the out-of-touch Pelosi agenda or a proven conservative like Rick Saccone who will stand for Pennsylvania families?”
Republican polling in Pennsylvania’s 18th district, which was drawn to reelect former Republican representative Tim Murphy, has found that Pelosi remains less popular than Ryan, and that the president’s approval rating has dipped below 50 percent.
“The left is going to try to demonize President Trump in the Pennsylvania-18 special election but it won’t work,” said Brian Baker, the president of Ending Spending Inc., an outside nonprofit group which plans to spend about $1 million on the race to support Saccone.
Baker said a second independent non-profit that he runs, 45Committee, which spent heavily to promote the Republican tax bill last year, is also considering entering the race to support Saccone, following Lamb’s comments Monday saying he opposed the recent tax bill.
Pelosi has previously said that the party should not demand litmus tests for its nominees in tough races; Lamb, a practicing Catholic who also supports gun rights, was already running generally to the right of the party on social issues. Asked to respond to Lamb, Pelosi spokesman Drew Hammill gave the candidate a pass.
“We agree with his statement that the real issue is Paul D. Ryan and what he wants to do to Medicaid and Social Security,” said Hammill.
The special election will be held on March 13.