- The Washington Times - Saturday, November 9, 2002

California Rep. Nancy Pelosi appeared to have secured the Democratic leader's position in the House yesterday, prompting her chief rival to withdraw from the race, though another candidate immediately emerged.
"The race is over," Mrs. Pelosi said in a news conference from her home district in San Francisco, where she promised to release a list of 105 House Democrats committed to her bid.
Currently the whip, the second-highest position among House Democrats, Mrs. Pelosi said as minority leader she will build a consensus economic plan and then stand up to President Bush on the issue.
But even as Mrs. Pelosi, 62, was making her statement, Rep. Harold E. Ford Jr., Tennessee Democrat, was in Washington declaring his intention to challenge her.
"How many more times can you afford to put the same lineup out with the hope that they'll provide a different result? Well, we did once. We did it twice. We did a third time, did a fourth time. Now we're contemplating doing it a fifth time," said Mr. Ford, a 32-year-old member of the "Blue Dogs," a group of centrist and conservative-leaning Democrats.
House Democrats will vote next Thursday by secret ballot for their leaders for the 108th Congress.
Mrs. Pelosi emphasized that she would seek common ground with Republicans "for the good of the American people."
"But where we do not have our common ground, we must stand our ground," she said. "And I will work with my colleagues to develop that message from everyone from across the spectrum in the Democratic Party, in the caucus."
Mr. Ford faces a nearly insurmountable challenge a fact that was underscored earlier in the day when Rep. Martin Frost, Texas Democrat and the third-ranking House Democrat, abandoned his bid for the slot.
"It is clear to me that Nancy Pelosi has the votes of a majority of the caucus," Mr. Frost, 60, said in a letter to colleagues releasing them from their support and declaring his own support for Mrs. Pelosi.
On the Senate side, Majority Leader Tom Daschle, South Dakota Democrat, told reporters yesterday he will run for the party's top slot again and said he hasn't heard of any opposition.
Mr. Daschle's troops suffered a net loss of two senators on Tuesday. That will mean next January the Senate will have 51 Republicans, 48 Democrats and one independent who sides with Democrats in leadership matters, if Sen. Mary L. Landrieu, Louisiana Democrat, wins her election runoff on December 7.
But Mr. Daschle had one critical victory: Fellow South Dakota Democratic Sen. Tim Johnson appears to have won re-election by defeating Republican Rep. John Thune in a race widely viewed as a surrogate contest between Mr. Daschle and President Bush. Mr. Johnson's 528-vote margin of victory might result in a recount.
"South Dakota was a clear demonstration of a Democratic success story," Mr. Daschle said. "I think if we did it in South Dakota, we ought to be able to do it nationally. We're going to continue to try to do that, to replicate what Tim Johnson did in South Dakota."
Even though Mr. Daschle and Mrs. Pelosi appear to have sewn up their positions, the debate raged over which direction the party they lead should go.
Mr. Frost, who on Thursday had said a Democratic Party under Mrs. Pelosi's leadership could not win a majority in Congress, yesterday urged colleagues to stick with "centrist positions consistent with the majority view of the nation and of the competitive battleground districts that determine the House majority."
"Otherwise, we will continue to fall just short of control of the House," he wrote in a letter to colleagues announcing his decision to withdraw.
But Rep. John Conyers Jr., Michigan Democrat and one of the longest-serving House members, said Americans agree with the Democratic philosophy, even on going to war in Iraq.
The challenge is to find a leader to convey that message.
"The race is about who can get the party that represents most people in America back into power," he said.
Mr. Ford said the current leadership cannot do that.
"The American people don't trust us to govern. If they did, they would have given it back to us by now. And it leads me to believe that we need real, meaningful change. And unfortunately, I don't believe Ms. Pelosi represents that change, as much as I respect her," he said.
Mr. Ford's voting record is more conservative than Mrs. Pelosi's. This year he has supported a ban on partial-birth abortions, voted for the House bill on a Department of Homeland Security, for authorizing the president to use force in Iraq and for permanent repeal of the estate tax.
But yesterday, even as he was calling for a different kind of leadership for the party, Mr. Ford renounced his vote on the estate tax, saying that "everything has to be put back on the table" on economic policy.
Republicans are anticipating having Mrs. Pelosi as the face of the House Democrats.
"I would imagine it would probably be like Barbara Boxer she's become sort of a West Coast Ted Kennedy, another ideological liberal from the Bay area," said Jonathan Grella, a spokesman for House Majority Whip Tom DeLay, Texas Republican, who is expected to become majority leader when Republicans vote for their leaders next week.
Mrs. Pelosi said her election isn't about putting a liberal face on the party.
"I don't think it says anything about the direction of the party," she said.
"I think it says everything about our seriousness to be rigorous in understanding the economic issues and putting forth our message to be rigorous in winning the elections and to be rigorous in making the future better for the American people."

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