House Democrats held secret talks about Van Hollen succeeding Pelosi

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Allies of House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi held secret talks about having Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) succeed her in the wake of the party’s disastrous 2014 elections,  according to a new story in The New York Times Magazine.

The effort was aimed at setting up Van Hollen as Pelosi’s successor and preventing House Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer (Md.), the No. 2 Democrat and a longtime Pelosi rival, from ascending to the top Democratic position.

{mosads}Van Hollen worked with seven other Democrats to build the case that he could win enough votes to defeat Hoyer in a leadership election to replace Pelosi, according to the report.

Those Democrats were Reps. Rosa DeLauro (Conn.), Steve Israel (N.Y.), Lloyd Doggett (Texas), Paul Tonko (N.Y.), Beto O’Rourke (Texas), Dan Kildee (Mich.), and Donna Edwards, the Maryland lawmaker now running against Van Hollen in the Senate primary.

DeLauro and Israel are particularly close allies of Pelosi.

But Van Hollen abandoned the effort after Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.) announced her retirement in March, and he decided to run for her seat.

At that point, the Times story reports, Pelosi “begged him” to stay in the House, but did not offer to step aside and endorse him as her replacement.

Without that assurance, Van Hollen filed to run for the Senate, according to the Times.

A Van Hollen aide disputed the notion of any connection between Pelosi’s position and his decision to run for Senate.

“Congressman Van Hollen’s decision to run for the Senate had nothing to do with Leader Pelosi’s continued service to the House Democratic Caucus,” the aide said in a statement to The Hill.

The secret talks were held after the midterm elections, when Democrats lost the Senate and Republicans gained their largest Hous majority since the Truman administration.

In deciding to run for the Senate, Van Hollen said he “blew it in 2006” by not running to replace then-Sen. Paul Sarbanes (D-Md.). Then-Rep. Ben Cardin won the primary that year and easily defeated former Lt. Gov. Michael Steele, who went to serve as chairman of the Republican National Committee.

O’Rourke told the Times that he’s sad to see Van Hollen leave the House.

“He’s a smart guy and a good guy. It doesn’t help to lose people like that.”

He added that other prominent Democrats might leave the House, where Democrats are expected to remain in the majority for years to come, in order to seek out a chance at a position with more power to control the agenda.

“Being in the minority and not having a clear path to winning that majority — that’s got to have some bearing on it,” he said, as he mentioned Reps. Tulsi Gabbard (Hawaii), Joe Kennedy (Mass.), and Patrick Murphy (Fla.) as young Democrats that may not stick around the House for long.

“This is only my second term, but talking to older members, they say: `When you’re in the majority, it’s a completely different job. If you have an idea, we can get that done. And that just won’t happen in the minority.’ “

— This story was upated at 11:24 a.m.

Tags Chris Van Hollen Nancy Pelosi
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