Only half of the House Democrats in New England support Pelosi — so far
Just over half of the House Democrats from New England — whose party captured every House seat in the region in the midterm elections — are publicly supporting Nancy Pelosi to serve as their next speaker.
A Globe survey of the 21 House Democrats from the six New England states found 11 backed the California Democrat for speaker, seven said they were undecided, and three opposed her.
Democrats will take an internal tally next week on Pelosi’s bid, with a public vote for speaker scheduled for January on the House floor. Pelosi has said she will have the 218 votes needed to reclaim the speakership, but just 14 Democrats voting against her could derail her ascension to the job as head of the chamber.
Salem Democrat Seth Moulton, one of Pelosi’s most outspoken critics in the party, along with Representative Stephen Lynch of South Boston and Representative-elect Jared Golden of Maine, are part of a group of 22 members nationwide who have indicated they will not support Pelosi for speaker. Moulton has argued it’s time for new leadership, although he's recently faced backlash for pushing the ousting of the nation’s first female speaker on the heels of Democrats winning the majority.
“If you look at each member of the New England delegation, each has their own specific reason why they have the public position they do on Pelosi right now. But underlying all of it has been a negative branding campaign by the Republicans for years now,” said retiring Representative Carol Shea-Porter, a New Hampshire Democrat and Pelosi supporter. “I would just remind those on the fence that the reason Republicans did that is because she is so effective.”
Shea-Porter’s successor, Representative-elect Chris Pappas, declined to answer questions about Pelosi during his congressional campaign.
He said Tuesday through a spokesman that he “was still evaluating the race as it unfolds.”
Two others of New England’s newly elected members said they remain undecided about Pelosi.
Boston’s Ayanna Pressley, who unseated 10-term Representative Michael Capuano in a Democratic primary earlier this year, has argued for a new generation of leadership. But she stops short of calling for a new speaker candidate other than Pelosi.
“Congresswoman-elect Pressley continues to have important and productive conversations with her colleagues — including leader Pelosi — about how the Democratic Party can advance a bold, progressive policy agenda over the next two years,” said Sarah Groh, Pressley’s incoming chief of staff.
Representative-elect Jahana Hayes of Connecticut said during her primary campaign that she opposed Pelosi for the speakership. But a spokeswoman said last week that Hayes is undecided: “She hasn’t said 100 percent she’s going to vote for her, but she hasn’t said she would not either.”
Another newly elected Democrat in the region, Lori Trahan of Massachusetts’ Third District, announced her support last week, telling the Globe “there is no one with the experience and proven track record of Nancy Pelosi.” Last month, Trahan said she was uncommitted in the party’s leadership race —
even as Pelosi stopped in the district in October
for the Lowell Democrat.
As Pelosi’s supporters are quick to note, the current minority leader does not have a Democratic opponent yet. One potential challenger, Representative Marcia L. Fudge of Ohio, endorsed Pelosi’s bid for speaker on Tuesday evening.
The lack of opposition makes supporting Pelosi an easy call for some local Democrats, they said. As longtime Representative John Larson of Connecticut put it: “And who is running against her? So far she’s unopposed.”
Also backing Pelosi are Representatives Bill Keating of Bourne, Katherine M. Clark of Melrose, and Joe Kennedy III of Newton. In the weeks prior to the state’s Sept. 4 primary, Keating said he was “open to any candidate.” Kennedy and Clark said in August that they support Pelosi.
New England Democrats went 21-0 for House elections earlier this month — although Golden’s opponent, GOP Representative Bruce Poliquin, has filed a lawsuit over the election under the state’s new ranked-choice voting system.
Still, with Democrats in the majority, the region is expected to benefit in tangible ways. Representatives Richard E. Neal of Springfield and James P. McGovern of Worcester are set to lead the powerful Ways and Means and Rules committees, respectively. McGovern had said he would support Pelosi, but Neal said in August through a spokesman that he would vote for whoever the caucus nominates.
Both incumbents now say they back Pelosi.
Elsewhere in New England, Pelosi supporters include Representatives Chellie Pingree of Maine, Annie Kuster of New Hampshire, David Cicilline of Rhode Island, and Rosa DeLauro of Connecticut.
Among those who say they are undecided are Peter Welch of Vermont, Jim Langevin of Rhode Island, and Joe Courtney and Jim Himes of Connecticut.
In Massachusetts, Lynch joined Moulton in signing a letter released this week saying they wouldn’t vote for Pelosi. Lynch declined through a spokeswoman to be interviewed for this story.
Golden did not sign the letter but reaffirmed Monday in an interview with Maine Public Radio that “it’s time to pass a torch to a new leadership team in our party.”
In Amesbury on Monday evening, Moulton took criticism for his opposition to Pelosi as women in the front row of his town hall held signs reading “#IStandWithNancy.”
But Moulton has run against the establishment before, knocking off nine-term congressman John Tierney, a Pelosi ally, in a 2014 primary.
In an interview, Tierney described Moulton’s efforts as “flailing.” He argued Pelosi, 78, will win the caucus handily “because there really isn’t an argument against her that isn’t either sexist or ageist.”
“I saw it myself and others have found that she was the most effective speaker since 1964,” said Tierney. “We don’t ask effective military generals to leave just because they are old.”