Ryan Confirms He’s ‘Looking at’ Leadership Run

WARREN, Ohio – House Democrats “need to have a conversation” about the direction of their leadership, whether or not that means U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan as leader of the minority caucus, Ryan said this morning.

Ryan responded to news, first reported by The Business Journal, that he is considering a challenge to one-time mentor Nancy Pelosi, House minority leader and former speaker. Ryan was among a group of Democrats who signed a letter calling on Pelosi to postpone Thursday’s leadership vote.

“I’ve been getting a lot of calls. There are a lot of people in the House Democratic Caucus that think we’ve got to figure out how to change things and they’ve asked me to step up,” Ryan, D-13 Ohio, said.

“I’ve not agreed to do that,” he told The Business Journal. “We’re looking at it closely but we’re not sure. I want to have a longer discussion.”

Ryan said he was among a group of Democrats who put together a letter seeking to move the leadership election back a couple weeks to allow for a “thorough vetting” of what happened in last week’s election and how Democrats can craft an economic message that appeals to working class voters. First elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 2002, the congressman noted he won his district with some 70% of the vote while other Democrats couldn’t manage 50%.

Ryan sent Pelosi a personal note reflecting essentially the same concerns in the group letter, but when rumors started floating that he might make a run for leader he “wanted to move himself off of that other letter,” he said.

“There are many people on that letter who just want to have that discussion, he added. “They’re not saying they’d be for me or against me or for or against her, but the purpose of the letter was to have the discussion.” The rumors about a potential leadership run by Ryan was “contaminating that letter, and I didn’t want to be a part of that.”

“I love Nancy Pelosi. She was a mentor for me. She helped me get on the Appropriations Committee, and I couldn’t have more respect for her,” he said. “But we need to have this conversation.”

A story posted this afternoon by CNN says Ryan “would face a significant uphill climb” should he run against Pelosi. And Ryan could also be called upon to defend “his level of support for House Democrats,” CNN reported, “with one senior Democratic aide noting that the Ohio Democrat only paid half of the $200,000 in dues he owes the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee this cycle.”

Politico also reported on Ryan’s potential bid and quoted a source described as “a senior Democratic aide” who called it “a publicity stunt.”

The Washington Post first reported late Sunday on the effort to delay the leadership vote.

States the group letter, as quoted by The Post, “Only by taking the time to find the hard truths can we formulate a comprehensive path forward, which could include the composition of our caucus leadership and the roles and responsibilities of each leadership position. This type of family conversation will take time, but it is absolutely necessary to put us in the best position to take back control of the House.”

An opinion piece posted Sunday at Huffington Post touts Ryan as the congressman who “should challenge Nancy Pelosi for leadership of the Democratic Party.”

The commentary, written by Democratic analyst Krystal Ball, describes Ryan as someone who “speaks the language of disaffected blue collar voters and is also the kind of young scrappy fighter” needed to challenge President-elect Trump.

“Will he run [for minority leader]? It’s hard to say,” Ball writes. “I’m told Ryan just may be frustrated enough at the lack of an economic message to take on the challenge but it certainly won’t be any easy one. Any attempt to move against leadership takes a whole lot of friends and a whole lot of courage.”

— Andrea Wood contributed reporting to this story.

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