By Ray Hagar, Nevada Newsmakers
Saying the Democratic Party needs younger leadership, former U.S. Rep. Shelley Berkley said Aug. 23 on Nevada Newsmakers that Nancy Pelosi should step down as Democratic leader in the U.S. House.
“Nancy Pelosi should have retired a decade ago,” said Berkley, D-Las Vegas and Nevada’s 1st U.S. House District representative from 1999 to 2013.
“It is time that the leadership steps aside,” said Berkley of Pelosi, 77. “If they have done the right thing, they have mentored people to take their place and it is time for a younger generation.”
Berkley’s opinion is an reflection of the Pelosi fatigue syndrome impacting her own California voters, according to a poll by the Berkeley (Calif.). Institute of Government Studies.
That 2017 poll found California Democrats want their party to choose a new U.S. House leader after the November election.
Only 31 percent of those polled want Pelosi to remain as leader if Republicans keep the majority in the U.S. House. Fifty percent want a new leader if the GOP keeps the majority.
Thirty percent want Pelosi to remain as leader if Democrats regain the majority, with 44 percent wanting a new leader.
“At this point, Nancy simply must step down,” Berkley said. “She is not good for the party anymore.”
Pelosi’s district includes most of San Francisco. She has been in the U.S. House since 1987, sometimes winning by margins of 70 to 80 percent.
Rep. Dina Titus, Nevada’s current U.S. House District 1 representative, does not share Berkley’s opinion. Pelosi is an exceptional fundraiser and that buys a lot of loyalty, Titus said.
For example, Pelosi held 165 fundraising events in 35 cities, raising nearly $40 million for House Democrats in the first nine months of 2017, as reported by the Sacramento Bee.
“If we take the majority, and it looks like we are going to, she will have a strong base out of California,” Titus said on Nevada Newsmakers in March. “A lot of women will be elected (as Democrats). She (Pelosi) will have raised a lot of money. So I think we can wait and see but I would not bet against her.”
Berkley does not want to turn over the leadership to 20 year olds, despite calling for younger leadership.
“I am not talking about 20-somethings,” she said. “A younger generation in Congress means my age (Berkley is 57). I’m talking about the next generation down that, quite frankly, has been shut out of leadership positions simply because the old guard would not leave.”
Berkley did not name a likely successor to Pelosi. She lamented that some of the best candidates may also be too old.
She supported Rep. Steny Hoyer, D-Md., as leader when she was in Congress. But Hoyer, who visited Reno in 2011 to campaign for congressional candidate Kate Marshall, is now 79. He was U.S. House majority leader from 2007 to 2011.
“Steny has reached an age where it would not make any sense for him to take over,” Berkley said.
Berkley currently sees Vice President Joe Biden has the best hope for Democrats to run against Donald Trump in the 2020 presidential election. Yet Biden is 75, two years older than Trump.
“At first, I discounted that (Biden for President) as sheer folly,” Berkley said. “But I am reassessing my position. If Joe Biden comes out of the primaries, I would support him, in comparison to any others at this moment who might be running.”
The Democrats’ bench of presidential candidates in lean, Berkley said. Yet she has not given up hope of finding a great candidate to oppose Trump.
“Just when you are scratching your head and thinking, ‘Oh my goodness, there is nobody that can be the standard bearer for the party,’ somebody miraculously comes forward,” she said.
“Remember, who had heard of Barrack Obama until he burst onto the scene?” she said. “Who had heard of Bill Clinton until he burst onto the scene? … Jimmy Carter.”
Berkley, however, hasn’t seen a solid Democratic candidate come forward yet.
“The ones I’ve seen talking about it, I’m not so keen on,” she said.
Berkley discounts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., as a viable presidential candidate because she is too liberal for a majority of U.S. voters.
“That doesn’t mean she isn’t a brilliant woman because she is,” Berkley said. “She is obviously a good politician, a very articulate spokeswoman for her wing of the party but may not be electable.”
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