Marshall Hopes Centrists Can Band Together to Unseat Pelosi

MACON, Ga. — A day after making headlines by announcing he would not support Nancy Pelosi for another term as Speaker, Rep. Jim Marshall said he hopes more Democratic Members will join him in calling for new leadership in the party. "If enough people say that [they won't vote for Pelosi] in advance, then the numbers may not be there and that permits her to gracefully bow out, and it opens the field for a number of people to step in," the Georgia Democrat said in an interview Thursday with Roll Call. Whether Democrats retain the majority and whether Marshall is still in Congress to see it are two very big questions these days. Marshall's battleground seat is being heavily targeted by national Republicans and outside groups who view his 8th district as a stepping stone to a Republican majority in 2011. But Marshall said he's confident that he'll win and that Democrats will retain the House. With significant Republican gains possible, Democrats may be operating under a small majority if they do retain the House. That scenario would present an opportunity for a group of centrist Democrats who opposed Pelosi's Speakership four years ago to oust the California Democrat, Marshall said. "Certainly we'd be back to an ‘06 situation, where the numbers are close and a number of us are talking behind closed doors about how we can steer this in a different direction and get a centrist Speaker," he said. "This is not something I haven't talked with other people about. Gosh, there were a group of us back in 2006 that very quietly met and talked about who we might get as an alternate candidate. Somebody that's more towards the center. But we did it very quietly. We were very careful who we included in that group." Marshall would not name any other Members involved in that discussion or say or how big that group is this year, but he did point out that Reps. Bobby Bright (D-Ala.) and Gene Taylor (D-Miss.) have already said they would not vote for Pelosi again. In interviews with Roll Call last month, nearly a dozen moderate House Democrats either refused to commit to voting for Pelosi or would not discuss the topic. "You need 218 votes" to be Speaker, he said. "I would not vote for the Republican [candidate, but] ... I'm willing to be the person who says ‘present,' but who does not vote for Nancy and helps the Democratic Party find somebody who is more centrist to be the leader of the party." Marshall said he has not talked to Pelosi or Democratic leaders since he made his opinion on the Speaker known, but said he's not worried about any fallout from his statements. If there are repercussions from above, "I guess my constituents, the folks I represent, will understand," he said. Republicans have called Marshall's statements this week a desperate political move that comes as he's found himself running behind his GOP opponent, state Rep. Austin Scott. "After taking $46,000 from Nancy Pelosi, voting four times to put her in charge, supporting her agenda nearly 90 percent of the time and backing her Wall Street bailout and failed stimulus, the election-eve conversion Jim Marshall's making on his political deathbed doesn't exactly merit a Profile in Courage Award," said Sam Ray, Scott's campaign spokesman. Marshall said he decided months ago not to vote for Pelosi again. He had made his opinion known to several people privately before he was asked about it publicly this week, he said. "The dilemma where Nancy is concerned is that she comes from San Francisco, a district that is so liberal that, yes, she has protestors around her house, but they are protesting that she is too conservative," he said. Marshall was hesitant to say who he thought would be the best choice to be a new leader of the Democratic Party. "It's not that I can't name names, I just don't think I should," he said. "It's possibly counterproductive to trying to get somebody more centrist into the position of Speaker." The one name he did mention was Rep. Ike Skelton (D-Mo.), the chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, which Marshall also serves on. Taylor has also said he would support Skelton for the job. "I don't think Ike is interested or intends to, but he's been a great chairman of the Armed Services Committee. He's great at pulling people together," Marshall said. "I'd vote for Ike Skelton in a heartbeat. Absolutely."

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