Conservative Democrat wants Skelton over Pelosi as party's next speaker

Conservative Democrat wants Skelton over Pelosi as party's next speaker

If Rep. Gene Taylor had his way, Rep. Ike Skelton would replace Nancy Pelosi as Speaker next year.

Taylor told The Hill that he’d like to see Skelton, a Missouri Democrat and chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, succeed Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) if Democrats retain a slimmer hold on the House after the November elections.

Taylor’s suggestion reflects a broader sentiment among conservative Democrats that Pelosi is too liberal and indicates she may not win unanimous support from the caucus in 2011, as she did in 2007 and 2009. A number of House Democrats in tight re-election battles, including Reps. Bobby Bright (Ala.), Walt Minnick (Idaho), and Chet Edwards (Texas), have not committed to voting for Pelosi as Speaker.

“My ideal candidate for Speaker would be Ike Skelton,” Taylor said in an interview.

He is one of a handful of conservative House Democrats in relatively safe seats who are likely to return next year whether or not the party is in the majority. Republicans have again targeted Pelosi and tried to tie Democratic candidates to her agenda, even those like Taylor who have opposed most of the party’s big-ticket items, like healthcare reform and climate change legislation.

Taylor did not answer directly when asked how he would respond if Republicans tried to recruit him to switch parties.

“What I would want is a Democratic nominee for Speaker that is much more in tune with what I believe,” he said. “Quite frankly I haven’t seen that the last couple years.”

Asked if he would definitely vote against Pelosi for Speaker, Taylor replied, “I would much prefer an Ike Skelton or someone like that. Ike has been a phenomenal chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, and I think someone like Ike would be a much better Speaker.”

First elected to the House in 1989, Taylor has been a lone wolf on Speaker votes several times before. Though he voted for Pelosi in 2007 and 2009, he has three separate times been the only Democrat to vote for the late Rep. John Murtha (D-Pa.) for Speaker when the party was in the minority. On two of those occasions Taylor was voting against Pelosi as party leader, and once against Rep. Richard Gephardt (D-Mo.).

Taylor did side with Pelosi in backing Murtha for majority leader over Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) after Democrats won control of the House in 2006.

Few anticipate a serious challenge to Pelosi if Democrats comfortably retain the House in November. Aides to Hoyer have said he would not challenge her, although some say he has positioned himself to become the Democratic minority leader if the party loses and Pelosi steps aside.

Though he is considerably more conservative than Pelosi, at 78, Skelton would be an unlikely choice for Speaker, if for no other reason than he might not win re-election in the first place. Now in his 17th term, he is facing his most competitive GOP opponent in nearly three decades.

“Mr. Skelton is flattered, but he has no intention of running for Speaker,” a spokesman for the Missouri congressman, William Chapman, said.

Chapman would not say if Skelton is committed to supporting Pelosi for another term.

“The only race he’s focused on right now is in Missouri’s fourth congressional district,” he said.

Pelosi’s office declined to comment.