By David Skolnick
U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan said there’s no need for him to mend fences with Nancy Pelosi after his failed effort to unseat her as House minority leader.
“I don’t feel I’ve done anything wrong,” Ryan said Wednesday after House Democrats voted 134 to 63 to re-elect Pelosi over him. “I have people I care about that I represent that are feeling left out of the Democratic Party, and I have a lot of colleagues – 63 of them – who felt the same.”
Ryan, of Howland, D-13th, said, “I would hope an alternative opinion would be respected and appreciated.”
Ryan added: “Having 63 people vote for me will make it very, very difficult for her to have any retribution at all. A lot of people would be very, very offended by that because whether or not they voted for me, there were a lot of people who wanted to have the conversation that I forced us to have” about the party’s direction.
Rather than talk negatively about Pelosi and “backstab” her, Ryan said he was respectful of the House Democratic leader of the past 13 years.
“At the end of the day, I represented what I felt was a group of frustrated Americans,” Ryan said. “I would hope that and that alone would help me avoid retribution.”
Ryan serves on both the House appropriations and budget committees and expects to remain there.
He joked that the worst thing Pelosi could do is cancel his subscription to The Vindicator.
When Ryan announced Nov. 17 that he would challenge Pelosi, she said she had two-thirds of the House Democrats’ support. She ended up with a little more than that, getting 68 percent of the vote in a secret ballot.
While saying he hates to lose, Ryan said he was proud that he got 63 votes during two weeks of campaigning. He lost by 71 votes.
In comparison, the last person to challenge Pelosi for Democratic leader – then-U.S. Rep. Heath Schuler of North Carolina in 2010 – lost 150 to 43, collecting only 22 percent of the vote compared with 32 percent for Ryan.
“We came up short,” he added. “We ran a good fight. We knew it would be hard. We knew it was going to be a really, really tough race.”
Ryan said the 63 votes were about what he thought he had, but “we had a bunch of undecideds we hoped would break our way.” A day earlier, Ryan said he was “within striking distance.”
Ryan previously has considered running for governor and the U.S. Senate, but has opted not to do so. He is among the most mentioned names of potential Democrats for governor in 2018.
When asked Tuesday by The Vindicator about that, Ryan said he, his wife and staff would “talk about the next step. We’re in a really good place here in Congress. We’ll see how the caucus is in the next few weeks and how it responds. We’ll see. We’ll look at what we’ll do” and “what direction we want to go in.”
Mahoning County Democratic Party Chairman David Betras, a close Ryan ally, said the congressman didn’t run for Democratic leader to set up a gubernatorial run in two years, and he’s already recommended against such a run.
“We have to get more Democrats elected to the state Legislature,” Betras said. “If he went down there as governor, he’d have a Republican House and Senate and they’d stonewall him. He’s only 43. He could run in 10 years and he would still be young. He didn’t do this as a stage for governor. He did it to give a vote to those in middle America ignored by national Democrats. I congratulate him for his courage and leadership.”
Ryan and his allies complained that all of the party leadership comes from the coasts and has ignored the Midwest, causing House Democrats to lose more than 60 seats since the 2010 election.
The Nov. 8 election “taught us that change was necessary,” Ryan said. “Our party’s losses showed our caucus that we needed to have a serious conversation about our path forward and open the door for new reforms and voices” in leadership.
“I have been having issues since 2010,” Ryan said Tuesday. “I bit my tongue in 2012 and 2014 and 2016. Here we are as Democrats – we got slaughtered across the country. I’m not going to bite my tongue anymore.”
However, Ryan said now that it’s over, “I don’t know if I would do it again. We made a few enemies along the way,” and “cracked a few eggs.”
Pelosi hasn’t spoken to Ryan for a while. She didn’t return his Nov. 17 telephone call when he informed his former mentor he’d be challenging her for Democratic leader, and the two didn’t speak after the vote.
“I shook her hand after, and I made her election unanimous and thanked everybody,” Ryan said.
After the victory, Pelosi tweeted: “Honored to be elected by my colleagues to serve as Democratic leader. Let’s get to work.”
She told CNN that the nearly one-third of caucus members who didn’t vote for her “weren’t defections.”
Pelosi also said she appreciated Ryan’s bringing up the issues and doing so in a civil manner.
When asked by The Vindicator about Ryan’s failed bid, U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Cleveland, said, “Getting 63 votes against the highest ranking woman in [American] political history is a consequential accomplishment.”
Bill Binning, retired chairman of the Youngstown State University’s political science department, said Ryan’s Democratic leadership bid leaves him perplexed.
“We may never know what it was all about,” he said. “The textbook says leadership raises money, and Tim’s never done that. [Pelosi] was selected because of her fundraising ability. If he’s serious about running for governor in 2018, how much does this help him? I’ll never figure out why he challenged her. We’re scratching our heads.”
Ryan has been “politically savvy” since he first ran and won a state Senate seat in 2000, Binning said.
“This was not the Tim Ryan I’m used to watching,” he said. “Was there some deeper meaning? I don’t now. He was on TV a lot, but the question is: So what?”
The loss will have no adverse impact on Ryan, Binning said.
Despite the defeat, Binning said Ryan’s getting 63 votes was a “fair to good showing. It shows some discontent in the party.”
Betras was more blunt: “I don’t think [Pelosi] retaliates against him. If she does, it’s the stupidest thing to do.”