Tim Ryan to challenge Pelosi for House Dem leader

Rep. Tim Ryan (Ohio) is launching a challenge to Rep. Nancy Pelosi's (Calif.) long-held position as top House Democrat, he announced Thursday.

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In a letter to the caucus, the 43-year-old Ryan said last week's disastrous election results — the latest in a string of bad cycles for Democrats — show the party needs a new direction that can be accomplished only with new leaders.

"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,” Ryan wrote.

"That is why I am announcing my run for Minority Leader of the Democratic Caucus and humbly request your support."

The letter came just minutes after Rep. Joseph Crowley (D-N.Y.) announced that he's seeking to replace outgoing House Democratic Caucus Chairman Xavier BecerraXavier BecerraOvernight Regulation: Trump temporarily lifts Jones Act for Puerto Rico | Bill would exempt some banks from Dodd-Frank | Senators unveil driverless car bill Calif. AG: Trump backs down on greenhouse gas rule Overnight Energy: California cities sue oil giants over climate change MORE (D-Calif.) in the 115th Congress.

A number of Democrats had urged Crowley, a popular Queens lawmaker and prolific fundraiser, to launch his own challenge against Pelosi, and his evasion of questions in recent days fueled speculation he might run.

Crowley's decision to seek the chairmanship instead seemed to prompt Ryan to enter the race for minority leader.

Ryan's bid is a rare provocation to Pelosi, who's led the Democrats since 2003 and gone unchallenged in almost every cycle. The one exception came in 2010, when former-Rep. Heath Shuler, a North Carolina Blue Dog, opposed Pelosi after the Democrats lost 63 seats and control of the Speaker's gavel.

Pelosi won easily, 150-43, and she's claimed enough support to lock up this year's race, too — even before Ryan announced his challenge.

"Without even asking anybody for a vote, I have over two-thirds of the caucus supporting me," Pelosi told reporters Thursday.

Ryan isn't so sure. "I don't think that's the case," he said.

In his letter, Ryan said Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpIvanka Trump pens op-ed on kindergartners learning tech Bharara, Yates tamp down expectations Mueller will bring criminal charges Overnight Cybersecurity: Equifax security employee left after breach | Lawmakers float bill to reform warrantless surveillance | Intel leaders keeping collusion probe open MORE's victory marks "a turning point" for the country — one that demands an overhaul in the Democrats' messaging and leadership strategy.

"What we are doing right now is not working," he wrote. "At this time of fear and disillusionment, we owe it to our constituencies to listen and bring a new voice into leadership."

A chorus of Democrats has voiced deep concerns in recent days that the party is losing working-class, Rust Belt voters — the same demographic that launched Trump to surprise victories in states like Michigan and Wisconsin. Empowering leaders from those states — and not just from the coasts — would go a long way toward winning back that electorate, many lawmakers say.

Ryan said he'll use the days and weeks ahead to unveil a series of proposals "to help us energize the diverse base of our party." He's also volunteering a self-imposed term-limit if he loses favor with even a third of the caucus.

"I expect the entire Caucus to hold me accountable," Ryan wrote. "That is why if I am successful I will not serve again without the support of two-thirds of the Caucus."

Pelosi, for her part, is defending her bid to remain the Democratic leader, saying Trump's presidency is "an opportunity" for big Democratic gains in 2018, and her long experience makes her best suited to take advantage.

"In 2005 and 2006, I orchestrated the take-back of the House of Representatives. I'm very, very proud of that, and ... we see that as an opportunity now," Pelosi said during a press briefing in the Capitol.

"When President Clinton was president, the Republicans took the House; [when] President Bush was president, Democrats took the House; when President Obama was president, the Republicans took the House," she added. "So we have an opportunity."

"I know how to do it to get it done."

House Democrats will hold their leadership elections on Nov. 30.

Pelosi and Democrats huddled in the Capitol basement Thursday morning for their final caucus meeting before the Thanksgiving break. During the gathering, a number of young lawmakers amplified their earlier cries for a strategic overhaul.

"Nancy Pelosi has done extraordinary things for our party," Rep. Seth Moulton (D-Mass.) told CNN Thursday morning. "But we clearly need to have a plan for the future.

"A lot of people I think in our caucus right now just feel like they don't have much of a voice."

Earlier in the day, Ryan told reporters that leaving the current leadership of House Democrats in place would relegate the party to the minority for the indefinite future.

"I personally don't believe that we can win the House back with the current leadership. I just don’t think so," Ryan said. "I hate to say it, I love Nancy Pelosi, but I just don’t think we can do it."


Updated at 4:35 p.m.