The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Pelosi says she’ll run for speaker, as more swing-district Democrats look for alternative

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, shown in New York on May 1, 2018, has told the Boston Globe that she will run for speaker of the House if Democrats win a majority in the 2018 midterm elections. (Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

CHARLOTTE — House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi reiterated Tuesday that she will run for speaker of the House if her party wins a majority in the 2018 midterm elections, telling the Boston Globe that it’s “important that it not be five white guys at the table” in negotiations between Congress and the White House.

“I have no intention of walking away from that table,” Pelosi said.

Calls for Pelosi to be replaced faded after the party’s March 13 victory in a closely watched Pennsylvania election that put Rep. Conor Lamb (D) in Congress. House Democratic Whip Steny H. Hoyer (Md.), who has stumped for Democrats in swing races this year, has also said he will not challenge Pelosi for the gavel if their party wins control of the House.

But in competitive races, many Democrats have put distance between themselves and Pelosi, with some outright refusing to back her for speaker. In North Carolina, where Hoyer is spending Tuesday and Wednesday raising money and meeting candidates in two swing districts, both of the candidates in those races have declined to support Pelosi.

“I’ve said since Day One that I wouldn’t vote for Nancy Pelosi as speaker,” said Dan McCready, a candidate in the 9th Congressional District, which stretches from Charlotte’s suburbs into more-rural counties. “I think we need a whole new generation of people in D.C. That’s part of why I’m running; we need some new blood.”

Kathy Manning, a candidate for the state’s 13th Congressional District, said in an interview that she would like to see an open contest for party leader.

“I would make that decision like I make all my decisions: Get as much information as I can, find out who’s running, find out what their positions are, then vote for the person who’d make the best leader,” Manning said.

McCready and Manning have been added to the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee’s “red to blue” list, denoting them as candidates who can expect party support in their primaries and in the general election. In a separate interview, Elissa Slotkin, a candidate in Michigan’s 8th Congressional District who also is on the “red to blue” list, said she would also prefer an alternative to the 78-year-old Pelosi.

“I always believe in being respectful to leaders, particularly women who have broken [glass] ceilings,” Slotkin said. “But I think it’s clear that on both sides of the aisle, people are seeking new leadership, and I’m going to be looking for someone who best represents my district and what we care about here. And I believe that’s a new generation of leaders.”

Lamb’s victory, which added to Republican nervousness about the party’s midterm prospects in the House, also encouraged some Democrats to pre-emptively criticize Pelosi. Two months before the election, Lamb told the district’s largest media outlets that he would not back Pelosi for speaker, a decision that took the bite out of Republican attacks trying to make the Democratic leader a factor in the race.

“If they want to do the same thing to Elissa Slotkin that they did to Conor Lamb, all Conor Lamb had to do was point to the front page of the newspaper that said ‘Conor Lamb will not vote for Nancy Pelosi,’ ” said Rep. Cheri Bustos (D-Ill.), who traveled to Michigan this week to stump for Slotkin. “It’s phony. It’s played out.”

Despite the criticism, Pelosi has plowed ahead and raised eye-popping amounts of money for the Democrats’ midterm campaign. This week, Pelosi announced that she had raised $16.1 million for Democrats in the first three months of 2018 — well ahead of her pace in the 2016, when Democrats gained six House seats despite losing the race for the White House.

Pelosi, who was elected to lead the party in 2002, faced challenges to her leadership after the 2004, 2010 and 2016 elections. Rep. Tim Ryan (D-Ohio), who lost to Pelosi by 2 to 1 after the last election, has said he will not challenge her again.