For Tim Ryan, Democrats’ losses at the polls last week mean it’s time for party leadership to change.
The Ohio representative is challenging Nancy Pelosi of California for the role of House minority leader in the next Congress, he announced on Thursday. Minority leader Pelosi has led the party in Congress’s lower chamber since 2002.
Representative Ryan’s bid for a leadership role is part of a broader move by Democrats to shake up the party and expand their support base. Critics suggest that the party has become unduly focused on coastal voters, while leadership positions are dominated by older members of Congress who are not the party’s most vibrant and persuasive voices.
“Under our current leadership, Democrats have been reduced to our smallest congressional minority since 1929,” Ryan wrote in a letter. “This should indicate to all of us that keeping our leadership team completely unchanged will simply lead to more disappointment in future elections.”
Addressing a perceived leadership problem has been a focus for Democrats since their widespread losses on Election Day. Howard Dean, in his bid to chair the Democratic National Committee, called for a 50-state strategy and a focus on younger voters. For many, Rep. Keith Ellison of Minnesota – who is also running for DNC chair – personifies this vision, and would serve as a symbolic counterweight to the Trump administration.
In a parallel shift in leadership, Senate Democrats unanimously backed Charles Schumer for minority leader in the upper chamber. They see him, The Christian Science Monitor’s Francine Kiefer reported, as a “consummate dealmaker” who will balance working with President-elect Donald Trump and standing up for Democratic values.
Senator Schumer, himself from New York, has already begun to make Senate leadership more diverse, adding three positions to the leadership staff in order to address concerns about ideological and geographic diversity. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I) of Vermont and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D) of Massachusetts, who helped win over Millennials during the 2016 presidential election, are included in that number.
For New York Rep. Kathleen Rice, leaders need to “accept responsibility” for Democrats’ electoral failures so the party can “get to the point where our message is going to resonate with voters,” she said in a closed-door caucus meeting on Thursday, the Associated press reports.
But moving forward on issues important to Democrats may not necessarily mean new House leadership. Pelosi is widely considered a successful leader who has held House Democrats together, as well as an impressive fundraiser. Many say she, like Schumer, is good at negotiating with the Republican majority.
"She has been an extraordinary leader," said Rep. Jim McGovern (D) of Massachusetts. "If it weren't for her, a lot of things that are near and dear to our hearts would have been eviscerated. She's a good negotiator even in the minority."
This is not the first time Pelosi has faced a challenge to her leadership. She handily beat Rep. Heath Shuler of North Carolina, 150-43, after Democrats lost the majority in 2010.
The leadership election has been postponed, and will now take place on November 30.
Material from the Associated Press contributed to this report.