Tim Ryan to Challenge Pelosi for Minority Leader

Ohio Democrat had been mulling bid since dissapointing election

Ohio Democratic Rep. Tim Ryan is seeking House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi’s leadership seat. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)
Ohio Democratic Rep. Tim Ryan is seeking House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi’s leadership seat. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)
Posted November 17, 2016 at 3:26pm

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi is getting a challenger for her leadership post in the next Congress.

Rep. Tim Ryan confirmed on Thursday he is officially seeking the position, after his spokesman earlier in the week said the Ohio Democrat was “open to the idea.”

In a letter to Democratic caucus members, Ryan said that, if elected, he would dedicate all of his energy to winning back the majority. The caucus elections take place Nov. 30. 

Democrats have lost three straight electoral attempts to regain control of the chamber since losing their majority in 2010.

That year, when the party lost 63 seats, was also the last time Pelosi was formally challenged. Heath Shuler of North Carolina received 43 votes — and then left Congress two years later.

Ryan wrote that the 2016 election will be remembered as a major turning point for the country and that Democrats “must not let this opportunity for change pass without a fight.”

His letter did not mention Pelosi, who was unilaterally praised for her fundraising prowess, energy and support by members of the caucus this week.

[House Democrats Delay Leadership Elections]

Before Ryan made his intentions public, Pelosi brushed off any potential challenges, saying the notion actually helps her.

“It almost did me a favor by asking before I even ask for support,” Pelosi said, adding that she believes she has the two-thirds majority to be re-elected. (The Democratic caucus leader is elected by a simple majority.)

A senior Democratic aide said Ryan’s attempt amounted to a ploy to seek executive elected office in his own state.

“Many believe this run, destined for failure, is a mere publicity stunt to lay the groundwork for a run for governor,” the aide said.

Ryan is currently in his seventh term representing northeast Ohio’s Mahoning Valley, which has struggled with population loss and widespread unemployment. He had previously considered runs for statewide office, including a challenge to Ohio’s GOP Gov. John Kasich.

Some rank-and-file members had expressed frustration that party bigwigs were rushing toward leadership elections, originally scheduled for this week, without assessing what went wrong for Democrats in the election. The elections were eventually postponed until after the Thanksgiving break. 

Others expressed the possibility of voting for a challenger should one emerge.

Rep. Ruben Gallego of Arizona was one of the Democratic members who called for delaying the leadership elections until after the Thanksgiving holiday. He would not name a specific candidate he would support, before Ryan made his announcement public.

[Clinton to House Dems: ‘No One is Sorrier Than Me’]

“I’m supporting anybody that’s going to come back with an answer that’s going to tell us the path forward and how to avoid this pitfall again,” Gallego said. “I’m urging someone to be responsive to the need of the members.”

Ryan, who has served in the House for about as long as Pelosi has led the Democratic caucus, spent the week avoiding questions about his intent to run.

“At this time of fear and disillusionment, we owe it to our constituencies to listen and bring a new voice into leadership,” Ryan wrote. “While having a position in Democratic leadership has never been my life’s ambition, after this election, I believe we all need to re-evaluate our roles within the caucus, the Democratic Party, and our country.”

Right before Ryan announced his bid, Rep. Joseph Crowley circulated his own letter, announcing that he would run for chairman of the House Democratic Caucus, a position he is expected to win without opposition.

But before his announcement, Crowley evaded questions about whether he could emerge as Pelosi’s challenger.

In his announcement, Crowley said he would be “committed to creating an inclusive environment within our caucus, which means broadening beyond the usual messengers and building our strategies and our goals from the ground up.”