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Rep. Dennis Cardoza suspected that his January vote against fellow California Democrat Nancy Pelosi for Speaker might cost him the informal leadership post he’s held for more than three years. He was right.
But even though Cardoza wasn’t surprised Pelosi didn’t want him back at the leadership table this Congress, he said he was still disappointed that she never told him of her decision. Cardoza, a Blue Dog Democrat, had served as an unofficial liaison between moderates and top Democrats, a position that got him into the room during high-level talks.
Cardoza said he spoke to Pelosi last week for the first time since the Jan. 5 vote in which he and 18 other moderate Democrats backed someone else for Speaker.
“The Speaker has not ever called and told me I’m out of the room,” Cardoza said during a recent interview in his Capitol office. “I assumed when I didn’t vote for her that that may happen, but I am a little disappointed that she has not called me and told me that we’ve been disinvited.”
Cardoza, a self-described “unrepentant moderate,” declined to go into specifics but said he had talked to other members of Pelosi’s leadership team about her decision. Cardoza, whose Central Valley-based district is not far from Pelosi’s in San Francisco, also surrendered his seat on the Rules Committee this year, a panel that operates as an extension of the leadership.
Cardoza’s estrangement of sorts from Pelosi underscores how deep some moderates’ disenchantment with Pelosi’s leadership has become. Many moderates urged Pelosi to step down in the wake of the Nov. 2 elections that cost Democrats the majority, believing they needed new leadership at the top.
For more than three years, the then-Speaker relied on Cardoza to be a voice for moderates in the Caucus. Pelosi, a liberal, has always had closer ties to her left-leaning colleagues.
But since the midterm elections, which thinned the Blue Dogs’ ranks by roughly half, tensions between Pelosi and many moderates in the Caucus have escalated.
Pelosi’s allies insist she is making efforts to reach out to moderates and is soliciting their feedback as she charts a path forward for House Democrats, but Cardoza said he and other Blue Dogs feel that their concerns have “fallen on deaf ears.”
“There’s a lot of us who are feeling very alienated,” he said. “The Blue Dogs and the moderates don’t feel like they’re being reached out to at all.”