Pelosi challenger Tim Ryan gets first public backer
© Greg Nash

Rep. Tim Ryan, the Ohio Democrat challenging House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), got his first public endorsement on Sunday from another colleague.

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New York Rep. Kathleen Rice, who was just reelected to a second term, became the first House Democrat to go on record supporting Ryan over Pelosi.

Rice said that Ryan is ensuring Democrats are having the necessary discussions about how to move forward after a disappointing showing on Election Day. Pelosi had predicted double-digit gains, only for House Democrats to net six seats.

"Right now, Tim Ryan is the one person who's starting those tough conversations that so many of us wanted our entire caucus to have," Rice said in a statement.

She emphasized her "great respect" for Pelosi, but said her party needs to "look critically and honestly at ourselves."

"He's the one forcing us to ask the tough questions about our party's future, and he's the one providing real answers. For all of those reasons, Tim Ryan has my complete support, and I will do everything I can to ensure that he leads our caucus through the critical years ahead," Rice added.

Pelosi said before Ryan launched his candidacy that she had support from more than two-thirds of the Democratic caucus.

Rice was among the handful of Democrats who signed onto a letter urging Pelosi to delay the leadership elections originally scheduled for last Thursday.

Ryan announced his candidacy last Thursday, the last day the House was in session until after the Thanksgiving holiday.

He's cast himself as someone who can shake up Democrats' strategy to appeal to white, working-class voters who paved the way for Republicans to win control of Congress and the White House.

Ryan has never run for leadership before over his 13 years in the House and previously passed on opportunities to run for Senate and governor in Ohio.

Pelosi allies note that Ryan hasn't raised nearly as much money for his colleagues as the incumbent minority leader. He raised less than $1 million, below the average House member, compared to Pelosi's more than $141 million.

Yet Ryan, 43, is saying it's time for a change after Pelosi's 14-year reign leading House Democrats.

House Democrats will hold their leadership elections by secret ballot on Nov. 30.