“No,” Fudge told reporters when asked if Pelosi asked her not to run. “What she asked me was basically how we could get to a point where I could be supportive.”
Asked if such a point exists, even if she opts not to run against Pelosi, Fudge said, “There is a point, yes, but it’s going to take some.”
Fudge said she used the meeting to tell Pelosi about some of her concerns, adding that she needs more time to talk to people and think about whether she will run against her. The Ohio Democrat is headed home for Thanksgiving and plans to announce a decision shortly after the holiday.
She also told Pelosi she would speak with her again after Thanksgiving, presumably before any public announcement.
Asked if the meeting encouraged her toward running, Fudge said, “No, but it didn’t discourage me either.”
If she does run, Fudge said she hasn’t decided yet whether she’d seek the caucus nomination on Nov. 28, in which only a simple majority vote is needed to be selected the caucus’s choice for speaker, or challenge Pelosi during the floor vote Jan. 3.
“There’s a two-step process,” she said. “And both are viable options.”
The latter less like an official bid for speaker, since Fudge would be able to prevent Pelosi’s election on the floor without having enough votes on her side to claim the gavel. It’s unclear how such a showdown would be resolved, but it could involve multiple ballots.
Pelosi clearly is trying to avoid a floor fight.
“I think her goal is to try to quickly as possible unify the caucus, and I understand that,” Fudge said. “And that is why I thought it was important that when she asked me to come and see her that I did so.”
The conversation with Fudge was “candid and respectful,” Pelosi said in a statement.
Among the issues discussed, according to Fudge, were succession planning and “the feeling in the caucus of people who are feeling out and left behind.”
Pelosi has previously said she views herself as a transition leader, but Fudge did not gain clarity from her Friday on how long Pelosi plans to stick around.
“I’d like to know what her plans are,” Fudge said. “She did not share them with me, but I think that it is something that our caucus is interested in.”
If Pelosi were to say she’d only serve for one more term, that “absolutely, no question about it” would go a long way to diffusing some of the opposition against her, Fudge said.
Pelosi, however, has said she would not make herself a lame duck. She’s also hinted that outcome of the 2020 presidential race would factor into her decision on when to retire.
‘I can’t even sleep’
Fudge said she talked to Pelosi about the growing support she has behind her if she chooses to run but did not share specific numbers.
“I can’t even sleep my phone is going off so much, not just from people within this institution but people outside of this institution who are excited about the possibility of change and new leadership,” she said. “I mean I’m hearing it from lobbyists, from labor, from tons and tons of people.”
Despite Pelosi claiming Thursday that if the speaker election were held that day, she would have the votes to win the gavel, Fudge said the opposite Friday.
“If the vote were taken today she does not have the votes to be the speaker of the House,” she said. “I don’t think I do either right now.”
Challenging Pelosi wouldn’t mean undermining what the leader has accomplished, Fudge said.
“Nancy Pelosi was a very, very good leader and is a very good leader,” she said. “I don’t want anyone to go away and think that this a personal issue. … Sometimes you just need a different voice, sometimes you just need a different kind of a vision.”
For Fudge that would mean a more bottom-up approach than has existed under Pelosi’s leadership.
“I believe we have to listen to the American people and not decide or assume that we know what they want,” she said. “And I think that’s one of the things that we’ve not done well as a caucus.”
Citing her experience as a former mayor, prosecutor and judge, Fudge said she’s qualified to do the job but there’s a lot of responsibility that comes with being speaker that she is still contemplating whether she wants to take on.
“It’s a lot to travel every single weekend. It’s a lot to do all the fundraising,” she said. “It’s a lot to juggle all of the things that our caucus, which is more diverse now and bigger, is going to need.”
While she’s deciding, Fudge said she’s not made any calls in an effort to court votes.
“I would not put anyone in that position until I decide what I’m going to do,” she said. “I mean have I talked to some people yes, but [it’s] more people coming to me saying, ‘Ok Marcia, what do you want us to do.’”
Watch: Pelosi Talks Midterm ‘Wave,’ Says She Has Votes for Speakership