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Tampa Bay-area Democrats running for Congress decline to back Nancy Pelosi for speaker

Three of the four Democrats running for Congress against Republicans say they would support a new House leader should Democrats take back the chamber in November.
Democrat David Shapiro (handout photo)
Democrat David Shapiro (handout photo)
Published Sep. 6, 2018|Updated Sep. 6, 2018

If a "blue wave" comes in November, don't expect it to sweep Nancy Pelosi back into power. At least, that's if Tampa Bay-area Democrats have anything to say about it.

Three of the four Democrats running against Republicans in local Congressional races — David Shapiro, Chris Hunter and Kristen Carlson — all said they would back a leader other than Pelosi for speaker of the House of Representatives should their party win a majority in the chamber this November.

"Politicians in Washington have failed when it comes to protecting Florida families, and that's why I'm calling for new leadership on both sides of the aisle. A vote for me is vote for replacing Vern Buchanan and Nancy Pelosi," Shapiro said in a statement.

Shapiro faces incumbent Republican Vern Buchanan in the race for the 16th Congressional District seat; Hunter faces incumbent Gus Bilirakis in the 12th District; and Carlson faces Ross Spano for the open 15th District seat.

The fourth local Democrat, incumbent Rep. Charlie Crist, also declined to back Pelosi — but he wouldn't rule it out either.

"Before that's an issue, we have to win back the majority," Crist said in an interview Wednesday.

The Democrats' reluctance to back Pelosi underscores her unpopularity among some swing district voters. According to a June Gallup survey, Pelosi had just a 29 percent "favorable" rating among voters, compared to 53 percent "unfavorable." Among independent voters, who could be key to the electoral hopes of Shapiro, Hunter and Carlson, Pelosi's numbers were worse: 22 percent favorable; 52 percent unfavorable.

"Both parties need to choose a new generation of leaders who will place the best interests of our country first and only. Following along the same old partisan path is a road to ruin," Hunter told the Times in a statement.

Carlson, for her part, said the party needs "new blood."

"There seems to be a lot of new energy pouring into the party, particularly from young people," Carlson said in an interview. "I think we should allow that generational leadership change to take place to harness that energy."

But the Democrats' reluctance to support Pelosi hasn't stopped Republicans from associating them with the Democratic Congresswoman. Buchanan released a television advertisement last week calling Shapiro Pelosi's "hand-picked puppet." And a mysterious last-minute push poll asked 12th District Democratic primary voters whether they'd be more likely to back Hunter if they knew he supported Pelosi.

Read more: Eleventh-hour push poll spreads false claims about Bilirakis challenger Chris Hunter

For Pelosi's part, she told the Tampa Bay Times editorial board in May that she plans to run for Speaker should the Democrats reclaim the House. Pelosi added that she thinks there is a reason Republicans have spent the past decade-plus bashing her in advertisements.

"If I were not effective, they wouldn't be coming after me," she said.


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