The Pelosi Factor

TUPELO – First District Democratic congressional incumbent Travis Childers says he would prefer a “more moderate” Democratic alternative to Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, but he won’t go so far as to say he wouldn’t vote for her.
Conversely, his Republican opponent Alan Nunnelee has made Pelosi’s ouster his campaign cry.
“My first vote in Congress will be to fire Nancy Pelosi,” Nunnelee said at the grand opening of his campaign to the roaring cheers of supporters.
Nunnelee, like GOP congressional hopefuls nationwide, has vilified Pelosi in his bid to win the House seat. The strategy has helped to make the 1st District race a toss-up.
Childers, a member of the conservative Blue Dog Coalition, hasn’t made the same overt promise. But he did suggest that, if presented with someone more in line with his thinking, he wouldn’t vote for Pelosi.
During an editorial board meeting with the Daily Journal on Thursday, Childers said he wants to see someone more moderate in the role, repeating what he had said in a debate with Nunnelee on Oct. 12.
He criticized Pelosi for failing to work with Republicans and said he has sharply disagreed with her on key issues, including cap and trade legislation and health care reform, during his time in Congress. He has called the congressional leadership of both parties “out of touch.”
“I’d like to see a Blue Dog in the role,” Childers said, adding that a member of his conservative Democratic coalition is considering a run.
He didn’t name that person because it’s not yet confirmed.
“I wish I could see the list of those who will run right now,” Childers said.
It’s unclear who among the House’s 435 members might offer themselves to become the chamber’s next speaker. Each party nominates a candidate, and all members vote for their choice on the first day of a new Congress.
Pelosi, a San Francisco representative, was elected speaker Jan. 4, 2007, after the Democrats gained a House majority in the 2006 elections, and is expected to run again.
As speaker, Pelosi acts as presiding officer of the House and is second in line to succeed the president of the United States – the vice president is first in line.
She also determines which bills are considered on the floor and appoints which members serve on which committees. She appointed Childers to the committees for agriculture and financial services, for example.
Nunnelee accuses her of pushing a liberal agenda upon the country and said her views sharply oppose those held by people in the 1st District.
“Nancy Pelosi and others take things that most people in north Mississippi think is trash,” he said, “and put it on the floor and push votes.”
While Childers says he would prefer someone else, an outright declaration of opposition to Pelosi at this point could jeopardize his committee appointments.
Most House members vote for their party’s candidates. Those who don’t sometimes have lost their committee appointments, their seniority and any party clout they might have once had.
Judging from his statements, Childers obviously hopes Democrats nominate someone other than Pelosi so he can avoid that difficult vote. But he stops short of saying he’ll definitely oppose her, unlike his colleague and fellow Blue Dog Democrat Gene Taylor of Mississippi’s 4th District, who said he won’t vote for Pelosi again.
If he does vote against her, Childers’ only other choice without any other declared Democratic candidates would be the Republican Party’s nominee, probably John Boehner of Ohio.
Boehner, who has Nunnelee’s backing in a speaker’s race, was in north Mississippi on Thursday to campaign for the state senator from Tupelo.
“It’s more of the same,” Childers said, referring to Boehner. “It’s someone else who won’t work across party lines. I’m disappointed in the leadership of both parties right now.”
Childers and Nunnelee, along with seven independent and third-party candidates, face off in the Nov. 2 general election.
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EMILY LE COZ / NEMS Daily Journal