Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-San Francisco) announced plans Monday to broaden her leadership team ahead of her expected reelection as the House Democratic leader, the first steps in an ambitious strategy designed to put the party in a stronger position to regain seats in coming elections.
Pelosi cast the moves as a response to an election in which Democrats struggled to make a positive case to voters, something she said was in part a result of a string of domestic and international crises, but also of how candidates in statewide races responded to the difficult political climate.
“We thought that there would be a more unifying message. In our districts we were making it. But some of the Senate [candidates] were walking away from the president,” Pelosi told the Los Angeles Times in an interview in her Capitol office.
“What we’ve learned over these times is we have to just get out there and speak for ourselves about what we are doing. There is so much that the House Democrats have accomplished with this president that the public doesn’t even have the faintest idea [about].”
Rep. Steve Israel (D-N.Y.) will lead a new entity to shape policy and message for the House Democrats. Replacing Israel as chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee is Rep. Ben Ray Lujan, a 42-year-old from New Mexico just elected to his fourth term.
And Rep. Donna Edwards of Maryland, also just elected to a fourth full term, will become co-chair of the House Democrats’ Steering and Policy Committee.
Pelosi, who has been the top House Democrat since 2003, is expected to win another term as the party’s leader in an election Tuesday, along with the balance of the current Democratic leadership team.
Few expected Democrats to win back control of the House in this month’s election, but Pelosi had said in the weeks preceding the vote that she was confident they would cut in to the Republican majority, putting the party in position to win total control in 2016. It is likely, pending final runoff elections and results in other seats that are too close to call, Democrats instead will have lost 13 seats.
Pelosi rejected the idea that there was a “wave” election in the House, saying the party held its own – particularly in states where there were not competitive Senate elections. She also took pride in the fact that Democrats are poised to pick up a seat in California – particularly given the elevation of Kevin McCarthy of Bakersfield as the House majority leader.
And amid questions about whether she should step aside as party leader, Pelosi said she feels greater responsibility to lead the party forward.
“I’m here on a mission to get something done,” she said, adding she can still bring financial and political resources to help Democrats win seats. “I never thought I’d be here this long.”