Pelosi Calls On Rural Members

Posted March 28, 2003 at 5:28pm

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (Calif.), trying to expand her outreach to her Democratic Caucus, has put together a new group of Members dedicated to giving rural issues a larger voice in the party.

Pelosi recently created the 29-member Rural Working Group to delve specifically into developing a rural agenda and message for Democratic Members. The Minority Leader tapped Reps. Collin Peterson (Minn.) and Bennie Thompson (Miss.) to spearhead the new organization, which will meet weekly.

Cindy Jimenez, spokeswoman for Pelosi, said creating the group is part of Pelosi’s larger effort to reach out to different constituency groups within the Caucus. The goal, she said, is to give Members representing rural districts a seat at the table and a direct line of communication with the Minority Leader.

“These districts have very specific needs with very specific constituencies and philosophies,” Jimenez said. “It’s important that we have an avenue to communicate that all the way up to the leadership and all the way down to the district.”

Jimenez added that the group will help develop larger Democratic policies and message strategy.

“This is one of the things that is a priority for her,” she said. “It’s very important that as we fight for health care, education, transportation, that we address these districts’ specific needs.”

Rural districts are viewed as key to Democratic wins. Many rural districts are swing seats for the party and critical to its success in winning back the House.

While the Rural Working Group is a new entity, it’s not an entirely new idea. Under former Minority Leader Richard Gephardt (Mo.), the Democratic Caucus had a task force devoted to rural Members and their issues.

In a letter to Members, Pelosi said the new group will develop a rural agenda for Democrats, create a strategy for communicating rural policy initiatives, work with communications staff to advance the agenda, engage with third parties and organizations and solicit experts to testify before the Caucus about rural issues.

Other members of the working group include Pelosi and Reps. Rodney Alexander (La.), Marion Berry (Ark.), Sanford Bishop (Ga.), Leonard Boswell (Iowa), Allen Boyd (Fla.), Dennis Cardoza (Calif.), Brad Carson (Okla.), Lincoln Davis (Tenn.), Chet Edwards (Texas), Bob Etheridge (N.C.), Martin Frost (Texas), Ralph Hall (Texas), Tim Holden (Pa.), Chris John (La.), Ken Lucas (Ky.), Jim Marshall (Ga.), Mike McIntyre (N.C.), Mike Michaud (Maine), Brad Miller (N.C.), James Oberstar (Minn.), Earl Pomeroy (N.D.), Mike Ross (Ark.), Max Sandlin (Texas), Ike Skelton (Mo.), Charlie Stenholm (Texas) and John Tanner (Tenn.).