Rep. Tim Ryan says someone like him should lead Dems in House

By David Skolnick


It’s going to be difficult to unseat Nancy Pelosi as House minority leader, but U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan, who is considering a challenge, said change is needed.

“I don’t know if it’s me, but it’s someone like me” who should lead the House Democrats, Ryan of Howland, D-13th, told The Vindicator Tuesday. The party needs someone “like me, who has constituents and friends who are steelworkers or work in construction. The economy and blue-collar jobs are important for us as a party. We need leaders who can go into these Great Lakes districts” and relate to the people there.

Ryan, who calls Pelosi a “mentor,” said of her: “I don’t blame her for the [presidential] loss. That race takes on a life of its own. She has tremendous energy. She’s a great fundraiser and a great person. But the president, House and Senate will all be one-party rule. We need a leader or leaders to pull the people we lost in this election back into our corner.”

Ryan said Tuesday he didn’t know how much support he has.

Pelosi of San Francisco already has lined up strong support for her re-election and wasn’t willing to change a scheduled Thursday leadership vote. That is until a private Tuesday meeting of House Democratic Caucus members with several who pushed the delay.

The meeting was rescheduled to Nov. 30.

“That was a good move for us to delay the vote and give the caucus time to reevaluate the election,” Ryan said. “My main goal is to have a conversation as to what happened with the election and what we can do to grow as a party. A lot of members made the case to extend it.”

Ryan began receiving calls late last week from fellow House Democrats urging him to challenge Pelosi for leader. He then began making calls to fellow Democrats to gauge his support.

A group of about 30 House Democrats signed a letter addressed to Pelosi asking for the delay before Tuesday’s meeting. Ryan was originally on the letter, but removed his name so as not to make it look like the others are backing him.

U.S. Rep. Sean Moulton of Salem, Mass., a leader of the vote-delay movement, hasn’t endorsed anyone at this point, said Carrie Rankin, his spokeswoman.

Ryan sent his own message to Pelosi asking for the delay.

While Pelosi has support, it may not be solid.

U.S. Rep. Marcy Kaptur, a Democrat from Toledo, who signed a letter of support for Pelosi a few days ago, said she would reconsider if “someone from our region were to get in the race.”

Ryan said Kaptur’s comments “were interesting. Our leadership doesn’t have anyone from the Midwest. It’s time we did. It’s California and the East Coast.”

Ryan added: “I never, never had any ambition to be in House leadership. I don’t think about that very much. It’s not something to aspire to, but it’s a whole different world now. Someone has to start stepping up.”

David Betras, chairman of the Mahoning County Democratic Party, a Ryan ally, referred to the current House leadership as “the coastal elites who have run the party for too long. We need to find someone in middle America to run the party. Nancy Pelosi’s time has come and gone. It’s time to bring on new leadership, and Tim is absolutely that guy.”

First elected to Congress in 2002, Ryan received a seat on the influential House Appropriations Committee after the 2006 election by Pelosi because of his loyalty to her and his campaign efforts in a year when the party took control of the U.S. House.

But Republicans regained the majority in the House four years later and have held it ever since.

Ryan said he’s not worried about any repercussions for taking on Pelosi.

“I’m really not,” he said. “I’m worried about what’s happening around us. I’m not worried about getting punched for being involved and being part of the conversation to look at the direction of our party.”