The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

One-third of non-incumbent House Democratic candidates don’t support Nancy Pelosi

Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi plans to run for speaker if Democrats retake the House in 2019, even as many non-incumbent Democrats oppose her candidacy. (Video: JM Rieger/The Washington Post)

Since Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) announced her intent to run for speaker of the House if Democrats retake the majority in 2019, dozens of candidates have either come out against Pelosi as speaker or refused to say they will support the first woman to hold that office.

Democratic candidates' responses on Pelosi have ranged from intending to vote against her to saying the party needs new leadership to saying they will look at all of the candidates running for speaker once they are in office, examples of which you can see in the video above.

Thirty-eight non-incumbent candidates have said they will not or probably will not vote for Pelosi to lead House Democrats in 2019. Fourteen of those candidates are running in districts rated “Toss Up” (meaning they could go to either party) or safer for Democrats by the Cook Political Report.

In total, at least 87 of the 260 non-incumbent Democrats running this year have refused to endorse Pelosi or have sidestepped questions about her, according to a Fix analysis. Nearly a dozen incumbents have also expressed opposition to Pelosi.

Of the 87 who haven’t backed Pelosi, 41 percent are running in districts rated “Toss Up” or better by Cook. Democrats will likely need at least some of the 87 candidates opposing Pelosi to support her in a potential speaker election.

Democrats need to net 23 seats to regain control of the House, and while only a handful of Democrats voted against Pelosi on the floor in 2017, nearly one-third of the Democratic caucus voted against her behind closed doors in late 2016.

But of the one-third of non-incumbent Democrats demurring on Pelosi in 2018, it is unclear how many will actually vote against her on the floor, especially when a “no” vote could send a speaker’s candidacy to a second ballot for the first time since 1923, striking a blow to Democrats’ political capital just as they prepare to potentially open a number of investigations into the Trump administration.

As The Washington Post’s David Weigel reported this year, Democrats are in a bit of a Catch-22 when it comes to Pelosi: Announce your support for Pelosi, and Republicans will tie your candidacy to her. Announce your opposition to Pelosi, and Republicans will look for any break to again tie your candidacy to her.

Pelosi spokesman Drew Hammill took issue with the Fix’s analysis of the candidates' on-the-record statements on Pelosi, all of which you can read via the links in the graphic below. "This misleading analysis makes it look as though candidates who haven’t taken a position are opposing Pelosi’s leadership. Leader Pelosi hasn’t asked a single candidate for their support and won’t do so until after the elections,” Hammill said.

Indeed, dozens of Democrats who have refused to say they will vote for Pelosi have accepted support from her or from the party, including making campaign appearances with her.

Two days after Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez upset Rep. Joseph Crowley (D-N.Y.) this summer, Pelosi was asked how Democrats should handle candidates who buck party leadership on the campaign trail.

“We just want to win,” Pelosi said. “When I’m not in the Capitol and I’m someplace else, I’m raising money to elect those very people. Everything is at stake in our country. … So I just say, ‘Just win, baby.’”

This post has been updated.

At least 87 Democratic House candidates who are not incumbents have refused to endorse or have sidestepped questions about support for Nancy Pelosi. The Fix will update this list as needed. Click on the names below to see what candidates have said about Pelosi.
Name District Cook rating
Jahana Hayes Connecticut 5th SOLID D
Ayanna Pressley Massachusetts 7th SOLID D
Rashida Tlaib Michigan 13th SOLID D
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez New York 14th SOLID D
Chris Pappas New Hampshire 1st LIKELY D
Jeff Van Drew New Jersey 2nd LIKELY D
Mary Gay Scanlon Pennsylvania 5th LIKELY D
Chrissy Houlahan Pennsylvania 6th LIKELY D
Jason Crow Colorado 6th LEAN D
Donna Shalala Florida 27th LEAN D
Sean Casten Illinois 6th LEAN D
Abby Finkenauer Iowa 1st LEAN D
Haley Stevens Michigan 11th LEAN D
Susie Lee Nevada 3rd LEAN D
Steven Horsford Nevada 4th LEAN D
Mikie Sherrill New Jersey 11th LEAN D
Susan Wild Pennsylvania 7th LEAN D
Jennifer Wexton Virginia 10th LEAN D
Katie Hill California 25th TOSSUP R
Gil Cisneros California 39th TOSSUP R
Katie Porter California 45th TOSSUP R
Harley Rouda California 48th TOSSUP R
Lauren Underwood Illinois 14th TOSSUP R
Cindy Axne Iowa 3rd TOSSUP R
Paul Davis Kansas 2nd TOSSUP R
Amy McGrath Kentucky 6th TOSSUP R
Jared Golden Maine 2nd TOSSUP R
Elissa Slotkin Michigan 8th TOSSUP R
Andy Kim New Jersey 3rd TOSSUP R
Antonio Delgado New York 19th TOSSUP R
Dan McCready North Carolina 9th TOSSUP R
Kathy Manning North Carolina 13th TOSSUP R
Danny O'Connor Ohio 12th TOSSUP R
Lizzie Pannill Fletcher Texas 7th TOSSUP R
Colin Allred Texas 32nd TOSSUP R
Ben McAdams Utah 4th TOSSUP R
Abigail Spanberger Virginia 7th TOSSUP R
Ammar Campa-Najjar California 50th LEAN R
Nancy Soderberg Florida 6th LEAN R
Lucy McBath Georgia 6th LEAN R
Carolyn Bourdeaux Georgia 7th LEAN R
Brendan Kelly Illinois 12th LEAN R
Betsy Dirksen Londrigan Illinois 13th LEAN R
J.D. Scholten Iowa 4th LEAN R
Kathleen Williams Montana At-large LEAN R
Kara Eastman Nebraska 2nd LEAN R
Max Rose New York 11th LEAN R
Dana Balter New York 24th LEAN R
Nate McMurray New York 27th LEAN R
Aftab Pureval Ohio 1st LEAN R
George Scott Pennsylvania 10th LEAN R
Ron DiNicola Pennsylvania 16th LEAN R
Joe Cunningham South Carolina 1st LEAN R
Gina Ortiz Jones Texas 23rd LEAN R
Carolyn Long Washington 3rd LEAN R
Lisa Brown Washington 5th LEAN R
Richard Ojeda West Virginia 3rd LEAN R
Randy Bryce Wisconsin 1st LEAN R
Hiral Tipirneni Arizona 8th LIKELY R
Clarke Tucker Arkansas 2nd LIKELY R
Jessica Morse California 4th LIKELY R
T.J. Cox California 21st LIKELY R
Andrew Janz California 22nd LIKELY R
Diane Mitsch Bush Colorado 3rd LIKELY R
Mary Barzee Flores Florida 25th LIKELY R
Mel Hall Indiana 2nd LIKELY R
Perry Gershon New York 1st LIKELY R
Tedra Cobb New York 21st LIKELY R
Tracy Mitrano New York 23rd LIKELY R
Theresa Gasper Ohio 10th LIKELY R
Betsy Rader Ohio 14th LIKELY R
Joseph Kopser Texas 21st LIKELY R
MJ Hegar Texas 31st LIKELY R
Dan Kohl Wisconsin 6th LIKELY R
Liz Watson Indiana 9th SOLID R
James Thompson Kansas 4th SOLID R
Joshua Welle New Jersey 4th SOLID R
Mac Schneider North Dakota At-large SOLID R
Jill Schiller Ohio 2nd SOLID R
Janet Garrett Ohio 4th SOLID R
Ken Harbaugh Ohio 7th SOLID R
Jess King Pennsylvania 11th SOLID R
Tim Bjorkman South Dakota At-large SOLID R
Danielle Mitchell Tennessee 3rd SOLID R
Justin Kanew Tennessee 7th SOLID R
Adrienne Bell Texas 14th SOLID R
Jennifer Lewis Virginia 6th SOLID R