WASHINGTON (AP) — Two Democratic stalwarts from Massachusetts say Rep. Nancy Pelosi should change her leadership style— or even step down — after big electoral losses last year and in 2010.
Reps. Michael Capuano and Stephen Lynch made the statements in a joint appearance on WGBH's "Greater BOSTON," with Lynch predicting outright that "Nancy Pelosi will not lead us back into the majority." Asked by host Jim Braude if the answer to the question whether Pelosi "should go?" is "yes," Lynch said, "Right."
Capuano was more circumspect and softened his criticism after the television appearance sparked a round of news stories. "I think we need leadership that understands that if something that you're doing is not working, change what you're doing," Capuano said on WGBH.
Asked if the 75-year-old Californian should leave leadership ranks, Capuano said: "That, or she should change, one way or the other."
In a statement Wednesday, however, Capuano praised Pelosi as a "fantastic public servant with many great accomplishments."
"Since 2010, something hasn't been resonating at the polls. I believe that when something's not working, changes should be made," Capuano said in the statement. "I believe, however, that Nancy Pelosi is making the changes necessary to lead House Democrats back to electoral success and I still believe she will do so."
Their remarks were striking because both are party loyalists representing solidly Democratic districts. Each supported Pelosi in January in a largely symbolic vote for House speaker. Her official title is minority leader.
"The leader was re-elected unanimously in her caucus in November and appreciated the support of both of these members in the floor vote in January," said Pelosi spokesman Drew Hammill. "While there are disagreements in the closest of families, the leader always values the input of her members as we develop our message going forward."
It was unclear whether the duo favored having Pelosi step down before regularly scheduled leadership elections that will occur after next year's elections or whether she should simply not stand for re-election when her term effectively ends late next year.
Pelosi has led House Democrats since 2003 and was a very strong House speaker when Democrats controlled the chamber from 2007 to early 2011. She is perhaps the party's most prodigious fundraiser after President Barack Obama but she has also been at the helm during two disastrous mid-term elections that have cost Democrats almost 70 seats since 2010.
Pelosi's Senate Democratic counterpart Harry Reid, also 75, recently announced he's not seeking re-election. That has opened the door for Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y. to lead Senate Democrats after next year's elections.
Each of the top three House Democratic leaders is in his or her mids-70s. It's unclear who will emerge as the next generation of Democratic leaders, although Rep. Steve Israel, D-N.Y., has raised his profile. But a Pelosi protege, Rep. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., is leaving the House to run for the Senate.