Just as Republicans running in the midterms must contend with how closely to embrace President Donald Trump, Democrats face a similar dilemma when it comes to House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, a frequent target of Republican attacks.
Case in point: a skittish response about a recent Pelosi visit from the campaign of Kim Schrier, the Issaquah pediatrician and first-time candidate running against Republican Dino Rossi for the 8th Congressional District seat of retiring U.S. Rep. Dave Reichert, R-Auburn.
Pelosi, D-San Francisco, traveled to the Seattle area earlier this month for a private fundraiser in support of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) — an event that was not publicized by the state Democratic Party or any local congressional campaigns.
When asked about the fundraiser, Schrier spokeswoman Katie Rodihan immediately distanced the candidate from Pelosi and said Schrier had nothing to do with the fundraiser. She pointed to U.S. Rep. Suzan DelBene, D-Medina, who is co-chair of the DCCC’s finance committee, and hosts a similar fundraiser each year.
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“I believe Suzan DelBene had Nancy Pelosi here for a fundraiser. We’re not taking Nancy Pelosi’s money,” Rodihan said. “We were not hosting the event, not part of it.”
When pressed on whether Schrier had attended, Rodihan said she didn’t know and would have to double check. She called back and acknowledged: “Kim did stop by the event. She did not raise any money off of it. It was a DelBene event entirely.”
Rodihan said Friday she had not meant to be cagey about the Pelosi event, but it had not been on the candidate’s schedule until she was asked to stop by at the last minute by DelBene. Civil-rights icon Rep. John Lewis, D-Georgia, was a featured speaker at the fundraiser.
Although Schrier says she’s not taking “Nancy Pelosi’s money,” that may be a fine distinction.
Even if Schrier’s campaign is not directly accepting Pelosi donations, the DCCC, the local fundraiser’s beneficiary, already has spent more than $1.5 million to help Schrier in the 8th District race, according to Federal Election Commission filings. The money has paid for a stream of negative TV ads against Rossi.
Pelosi is a constant target of Republican and Fox News commentary seeking to tie Democratic candidates to the San Francisco liberal.
“Kim Schrier would support Nancy Pelosi and raise taxes on hardworking middle-class families. Washington families deserve better than Kim Schrier,” said Michael Byerly, a spokesman for the Congressional Leadership Fund, a Republican political-action committee that has set up shop in Issaquah and has spent more than $850,000 in support of Rossi, after Schrier emerged as the winner among Democrats in the Aug. 7 primary.
Beyond Republicans, Pelosi, 78, has faced criticism from within her own caucus, with some Democrats pushing for new and younger leadership.
Rodihan, Schrier’s spokeswoman, said the candidate didn’t want to be drawn into a debate about the Democratic leader until after the election. “Right now she is totally focused on winning and flipping this seat,” she said.
In a July interview, Schrier sounded open to a change in Democratic leadership.
“I see the party changing a lot … I think that the leadership needs to reflect the new party and that probably means it’s not going to be Nancy Pelosi,” she said. “I think that it would be nice to have a woman in some sort of leadership position, she’s the only woman in a leadership position, but I think that the leadership really needs to reflect this new, energized, forward-thinking party.”
Despite criticisms, Pelosi has staunch defenders in her caucus, and has proved a strong fundraiser for Democrats in their quest to retake the House majority. CNN reported last month that Pelosi had raised $83 million for the DCCC through June.
Her fundraiser here drew 70 people and raised $900,000, said Drew Hammill, a spokesman for Pelosi. Hammill said Pelosi didn’t schedule any public or media appearances during the visit because she had a packed travel schedule and was only briefly in the Seattle area.
Also attending the fundraiser were Reps. Denny Heck, D-Olympia, Pramila Jayapal, D-Seattle, and Derek Kilmer, D-Gig Harbor, according to Hammill.
Schrier will appear Monday at a local fundraiser with Rep. Jim Clyburn, D-South Carolina, the highest-ranking African-American member of Congress and the third ranking House Democrat. Clyburn has been pushed by some as a possible replacement for Pelosi as speaker.