- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 12, 2010

A growing list of House Democrats are expressing reservations about supporting Nancy Pelosi as speaker of the House, with freshman New York Rep. Scott Murphy the latest to say he won’t commit to voting for the Californian for the House’s top post after the Nov. 2 midterm elections.

At least one House Democrat — Rep. Bobby Bright of Alabama — has said Mrs. Pelosi should step down from leadership, while several others have said they haven’t made up their minds.

“We’ll see. We’ll see what happens when the election’s over and we’ll look at the leadership,” Mr. Murphy told the Albany Times Union editorial board this week. “I think that I haven’t spent any time working on that issue. I’m really focused on getting through this election season and figuring out where we go from there.”

Mrs. Pelosi, who has led the House since 2007, has not asked for his support, the Times Union reported Mr. Murphy as saying.

As Republicans repeatedly seek to portray Mrs. Pelosi as the face of the “tax-and-spend” Democratic Party, many Democrats running in conservative districts have distanced themselves from the speaker for fear of being associated with her liberal policies on health care, energy and the economy.

But Mr. Murphy’s stance is noteworthy because he is a moderate who most pollsters say is in good position to win in November.

He took office in April 2009 after a special election to replace Kirsten Gillibrand, who left the post after she was appointed to the Senate. Republicans have been quick to point to the number of Democratic candidates on the campaign trail showing uneasiness about their own Washington leadership.

“Seeking distance from Speaker Pelosi three weeks out from an election does not exactly qualify anyone for a ‘profile in courage’ award,” said National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) spokesman Paul Lindsay.

“The American people know desperation when they see it, and the newfound sense of ‘independence’ among these Democrats does nothing to mask the party-line votes they have cast in support of the Obama-Pelosi job-killing agenda.”

The NRCC, the fundraising arm of House Republicans, has reserved more than $700,000 to support Mr. Murphy’s Republican opponent, retired Army Col. Chris Gibson, a GOP aide said. The NRCC also has run at least two television advertisements on his behalf.

Pelosi spokesman Nadeam Elshami, asked about the number of House Democratic candidates questioning her leadership, said that the speaker “is focused on ensuring that Democrats remain in the majority, and we will.”

“The speaker has said that we are not going to yield one grain of sand in this election,” Mr. Elshami added.

Rep. Chris Van Hollen, Maryland Democrat and a member of Mrs. Pelosi’s House leadership team, said earlier this week that the rumblings of discontent reflect in part the party’s broad majority and the number of individual members who hold seats in centrist and even conservative districts.

“What they’re doing is talking about their independence on certain issues,” Mr. Van Hollen said Sunday on CNN’s “State of the Union.” “There are issues where they stood with the speaker and the president, and there are issues where they opposed the speaker and the president. That’s their job.”

On Monday, Roy Herron, a Tennessee Democrat running for the seat of retiring Democratic Rep. John Tanner, vowed that he would not support Mrs. Pelosi for speaker if elected.

Mr. Herron is in a tight race with Republican Steve Fincher for the rural west Tennessee seat, where Mrs. Pelosi is unpopular even among many Democrats.

“The people of my district are independent-minded folks who put patriotism above partisanship and are not looking to hire a yes man for either party,” Mr. Herron said. “I will not vote for John Boehner or Nancy Pelosi to serve as speaker of the House.”

Alabama’s Mr. Bright last week became the first House Democrat to say that he definitively won’t vote for Mrs. Pelosi as speaker should both return to the 112th Congress.

“I am not going to vote for Nancy Pelosi as speaker of the House. Neither the leader of the minority party, John Boehner, nor the present speaker, will get my vote,” Mr. Bright told Montgomery TV station WSFA. “I will vote for someone, a centrist, who is much more like me.”

Rep. Peter A. DeFazio, a liberal Oregon Democrat who has clashed with Mrs. Pelosi, also has signaled he may not back her for another term as speaker.

Despite some Democrats’ reluctance to embrace Mrs. Pelosi, the Californian has raised more than $217 million for Democrats since she entered leadership in 2002, a senior Democratic aide said. She has held 212 political events in 24 states and one territory since last year, excluding events in her home San Francisco district and Washington, D.C.

• Sean Lengell can be reached at slengell@washingtontimes.com.

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