Mich. Dems split on Pelosi speak­er­ship

New­com­ers Slotkin, Stevens push for change in lead­er­ship; in­cum­bents lean other way

The Detroit News - - Front Page - BY MELISSA NANN BURKE The Detroit News

Wash­ing­ton — Michi­gan House Democrats are di­vided on sup­port­ing long­time leader Nancy Pelosi as the next speaker of the House af­ter re­tak­ing the ma­jor­ity in Tues­day’s midterm elec­tions.

Most of Michi­gan’s in­cum­bents in­di­cated they would vote for Pelosi on the

House floor if she’s the cau­cus’ nom­i­nee, but at least two con­gress­wom­en­elect — Elissa

Slotkin and Ha­ley Stevens — main­tain their stance that new lead­er­ship is needed.

“I’m not about to just flip my prin­ci­ples now that I’m elected,” Slotkin said this week.

Pelosi of Cal­i­for­nia has been a fa­vorite po­lit­i­cal tar­get of Repub­li­cans, but this year a num­ber of Demo­cratic House can­di­dates said dur­ing their cam­paigns that they want to see a new gen­er­a­tion take the helm.

So far, no can­di­date has stepped for­ward to chal­lenge Pelosi’s bid for the speaker’s gavel.

“Nancy was ob­vi­ously able to push back,” said Rep. Dan Kildee, D-Flint Town­ship.

“One of the crit­i­cisms that many can­di­dates as­serted was we could never be in the ma­jor­ity as long as she’s our leader. Well, we’re in the ma­jor­ity.”

Pelosi’s of­fice has re­jected the no­tion that she won’t have the 218 votes needed to be speaker when the elec­tion oc­curs in two months.

“Leader Pelosi is con­fi­dent in her sup­port among mem­bers and mem­bers-elect,” spokesman Drew Ham­mill said. “Democrats don’t let Repub­li­cans choose their lead­ers. The elec­tion proved that the GOP at­tacks on Pelosi sim­ply do not work.”

Pelosi, the first woman to serve as House speaker, has led the Demo­cratic cau­cus for 15 years. She said this week she’s the “best per­son” to be speaker.

“It’s not about what you have done. It’s what you can do,” Pelosi told re­porters at the U.S. Capi­tol. “I think I’m the best per­son to go for­ward, to unify, to ne­go­ti­ate. I’m a good ne­go­tia­tor.”

Dur­ing the cam­paign, Repub­li­cans ran at­tack ads de­pict­ing both Slotkin and Stevens as hand-picked by Demo­cratic lead­er­ship, even though both said they wouldn’t sup­port Pelosi. Pelosi’s House Ma­jor­ity PAC spent at least $1 mil­lion each on ads

Slotkin and Stevens.

Each could run the risk of be­ing crit­i­cized by GOP op­po­nent in two years if they cast a vote for Pelosi af­ter sug­gest­ing they wouldn’t.

Slotkin of Holly de­feated GOP Rep. Mike Bishop of Rochester. When asked about Pelosi dur­ing her cam­paign, she said she’d sup­port “the per­son that rep­re­sents my dis­trict, my state, and I think that’s some­one new.”

“I don’t want to be dis­re­spect­ful to any­one who’s served, es­pe­cially a woman who has bro­ken glass ceil­ings. I just think it’s been re­ally clear what we’re hear­ing from peo­ple on the ground on both sides of the aisle. They want some­thing dif­fer­ent,” Slotkin said this week.

“That’s still my an­swer. I haven’t changed . ... We have to think about what kind of party we want to be. I think we need a new gen­er­a­tion, and that’s not just a talk­ing point. That’s for real.“

When asked about Pelosi, Stevens of Rochester Hills — who won elec­tion to suc­ceed re­tir­ing GOP Rep. Dave Trott — also said her po­si­tion hasn’t changed.

“I be­lieve that we need new lead­er­ship, par­tic­u­larly lead­er­ship that’s go­ing to speak to de­liv­er­ing for our Mid­west — the peo­ple here in Michi­gan’s 11th Dis­trict,” Stevens said.

“We prob­a­bly need to get back in the busi­ness of fo­cus­ing on the heart­land is­sues.”

Asked if she would vote for Pelosi on the House floor, Stevens said: “At this time, Nancy Pelosi doesn’t have my sup­port.”

Af­ter win­ning her pri­mary in Au­gust, for­mer state Rep. Rashida Tlaib of Detroit said she would “prob­a­bly not” vote for Pelosi.

Tlaib said Pelosi doesn’t speak about the is­sues im­por­tant to fam­i­lies in Michi­gan’s 13th Dis­trict, which in­cludes parts of Detroit and Wayne County.

“For me, I need some­one that, again, is con­nected with just the dif­fer­ent lev­els of poverty that’s go­ing on — the fact that there are struc­tures and bar­ri­ers for work­ing fam­i­lies in my dis­trict that need to be dis­man­tled,” Tlaib told CNN at the time.

“And sup­port­ing big banks and sup­port­ing ef­forts that I don’t think put the peo­ple first is trou­bling.”

She un­der­scored that po­si­tion in an Aug. 9 in­ter­view with a Michi­gan Ra­dio pro­gram. Her crit­i­cism of the lead­er­ship fo­cused in part on its sup­port for banks, not­ing how few African-Amer­i­can res­i­dents of Michi­gan’s 13th Dis­trict own a home.

Tlaib has since soft­ened her stance af­ter speak­ing to Pelosi at least twice, but has not pub­licly com­mit­ted to sup­port­ing her.

“I’ll ad­dress lead­er­ships votes if or when the op­por­tu­nity arises,” she said in an Oc­to­ber state­ment.

Andy Levin of Bloom­field Town­ship, who won elec­tion to rep­re­sent the 9th Dis­trict in Oak­land and Ma­comb coun­ties, praised Pelosi’s lead­er­ship with­out com­mit­ting to vot­ing for her.

“I think she’s a breaker of glass ceil­ings and has a tremen­dous track record as speaker and as leader of our party,” he said.

“I don’t know why peo­ple are so ea­ger to throw women of a cer­tain age un­der the bus who are so ac­com­plished. I have noth­ing but re­spect for Nancy Pelosi, and I honor her,” he added.

Levin hosted Pelosi at a fundraiser in Bloom­field Hills last month to raise money for the Demo­cratic Con­gres­sional Cam­paign Com­mit­tee.

“The Repub­li­cans de­mo­nize her and then peo­ple say she’s too di­vi­sive. If you let Repub­li­cans pick our lead­ers, then they’ll just de­mo­nize the next one. To me, that just seems fool­ish,” Levin said.

“I know she’s run­ning again, and I’ve cer­tainly not wor­ried about vot­ing for Nancy Pelosi for leader if that’s what it comes down to. That will be fine.”

Rep. Deb­bie Din­gell, D-Dear­born, said she ex­pects Pelosi will be re-elected but wants there to be dis­cus­sion abouthow ev­ery mem­ber of the cau­cus par­tic­i­pates.

“We need to have a strong con­ver­sa­tion about tran­si­tion and help­ing to build the bench,” Din­gell said.

“We’ve got to make sure the cau­cus is en­sur­ing that every­body is able to par­tic­i­pate fully, and that there’s places for every­body, and that we’ve got young peo­ple and new mem­bers deeply en­gaged.”

Kildee ex­pects House Democrats will have a “spir­ited de­bate.” If Pelosi is the cau­cus’ nom­i­nee, he will “ab­so­lutely” vote for her on the floor, he said.

“There’s a lot of in­ter­est in tak­ing her up on some­thing she just re­cently said — that if she is elect­sup­port­ing ed it would be as a tran­si­tional fig­ure and that she would work to usher in the next gen­er­a­tion of lead­ers,” Kildee said.

“We don’t know what that will mean in terms of tim­ing. We’re go­ing to want to know more about that. We’re go­ing to ob­vi­ously wait and see.”

Rep. Brenda Lawrence, DSouth­field, said last month she has not ruled out vot­ing for Pelosi but wants to see who puts their name for­ward.

“I am not writ­ing off Nancy Pelosi, and I’m not say­ing who has my vote. I’m wait­ing to see who comes up, who puts their name in con­tention,” Lawrence said.

Democrats are ex­pected to hold a se­cret-bal­lot vote in cau­cus later this year. The speaker’s elec­tion takes place af­ter the new Congress con­venes in Jan­uary.

Dar­rell Stew­art

Pelosi

Pho­tos by David Gu­ral­nick / The Detroit News

Andy Levin said, “I don’t know why peo­ple are so ea­ger to throw women of a cer­tain age un­der the bus.”

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