The Big Dawg
Florida Rep. Allen Boyd, a blunt-spoken farmer from rural Monticello, was chosen Wednesday to lead the Blue Dog Democrats, a group of moderate and conservative Democrats who are aiming to play a big role now that their party has retaken the U.S. House.
Boyd, a member since his election 10 years ago, said the group would push for more fiscal restraint, oversight of the Bush administration and accountability, virtues that have been missing for the past six years. They also pledged to work with like-minded Republicans.
"We will be the voice of the Americans in the middle, not the voice of any party,'' Boyd said at a press conference on Capitol Hill. "Republicans did not lose to liberal Democrats. Republicans lost to moderate and conservative Democrats.''
Boyd's official title is co-chairman for administration, and he'll have a key role in crafting policy and will serve as a liaison to House leaders in both parties. Many Blue Dogs, like Boyd, hail from Republican-leaning districts in Southern and Midwestern states, and they tend to vote with Republicans on many social issues, eschewing gun control and gay marriage.
The group picked up 10 new members in the freshman class, including Rep.-elect Tim Mahoney, D-Palm Beach Gardens, who replaces Republican Mark Foley. Christine Jennings, a Democrat from Sarasota whose race is still unsettled, also plans to join if a recount puts her ahead of her GOP opponent, Vern Buchanan. That brings the number of Blue Dogs to 44, a sizable bloc if they stay united.
With California Rep. Nancy Pelosi, a liberal from San Francisco, about to become speaker of the House, the Blue Dogs see themselves as an important counterweight within their party. "We're not going to be rubber stamps for anyone,'' said Rep. Mike Ross of Arkansas, co-chairman for communication. "We're going to bring our party back to the middle.''