Dems from Philly, South Jersey call for new message - but stick with Pelosi

2016-11-30T192759Z_1_LYNXMPECAT1JV_RTROPTP_3_USA-CONGRESS-DEMOCRATS.JPG
U.S. House of Representatives Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi speaks to reporters after she was re-elected to her post on Wednesday, despite a challenge from Rust Belt congressman Tim Ryan who said the party needed new leadership, on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., November 30, 2016. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

Updated with information from a spokesman for Rep. Brendan Boyle (D., Pa.).

WASHINGTON -- Democrats from the Philadelphia area largely stood by their longtime leader in the U.S. House, Nancy Pelosi, as their party groped for a way forward Wednesday after deflating election results.

Every Democratic House member from the region said they backed Pelosi for another term leading the caucus, helping her beat back a challenge from Rep. Tim Ryan, an Ohioan who called for a change and stronger focus on the working-class voters that propelled Donald Trump to the White House.

The Wednesday vote was the first battle over the Democratic party's future after losing the presidential election and making minimal gains in Congress -- with some calling for fresh leadership and a new direction after 14 years under Pelosi's guidance in the House.

"I think the consensus is that there is a problem and it needs to be fixed," said Rep. Donald Norcross, of South Jersey. "This was a rather unique election - the Republican candidate was speaking so much about the core issues that working families care about."

While Democrats focus on a variety of concerns, he said for most people "the most important issue is an economic one, that (they) have a job, and I think that we could have done better on that."

Norcross initially declined to say who he voted for in the secret ballot, but later said he "was supportive" of Pelosi.

Pelosi won the leadership contest 134-63, securing the two-thirds majority she had targeted, but also facing the most opposition she has seen in her time as the party's top official in the House. While still praised by her supporters as a prolific fund-raiser and shrewd tactician, her detractors point to years of Democratic losses that have left them wallowing in the minority. The party gained six house seats in this past election, when most analysts and many Democrats expected at least twice that.

"We tried, but we did not have the right message, there's no two ways about it," said Rep. Bill Pascrell, of North Jersey. Still, he said he voted for Pelosi, because she seems to be listening to her critics. "I think that she can unify us and we're going to need that in the dangerous period that we're in."

He was among several who said Democrats needed Pelosi's experience as Republicans assume control of the White House and both chambers of Congress.

Reps. Bob Brady and Dwight Evans, both Philadelphians, backed Pelosi. A spokesman for Rep. Brendan Boyle, also of Philadelphia, said the congressman also supported Pelosi.

While some Democrats have grumbled about their leadership growing stale -- Pelosi and her two top deputies are all in their 70s and she has led the caucus for more than a decade -- Ryan, her seven-term opponent from Ohio,  has no experience as a leader in Congress.

"We need proven, strong leadership now more than ever," Brady wrote on Twitter.

Evans, who just began his first term, said in a statement that Pelosi "embodies" his campaign message of "stronger and better together."

Boyle has called for stronger outreach to working class voters like those in the Northeast Philadelphia area he represents, though he has also said it would be unfair to blame Pelosi for all of Democrats' election disappointment.​ 


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