Pelosi has activated an aggressive campaign for the job involving House colleagues, prominent outside Democrats and party-aligned interest groups. Sixteen votes against Pelosi might block her from getting the 218 votes, a House majority, that she'd need to win the speakership. Numerous freshman Democrats who avoided questions about whether they'd back Pelosi met with her last week, and are now on-record as supporting Pelosi's bid.
Not signing the letter is Rep. Marcia Fudge, D-Ohio, who has publicly opposed Pelosi and is mulling a run against her. Fudge said Friday that she would not make a final decision on whether to run until next week at the earliest.
Fudge's office has not responded to a request for comment, but after Fudge met with Pelosi last week, it's possible the minority leader won her over.
In their letter, they pledge to oppose Pelosi twice - on November 28 when Democrats gather to choose their leaders and then again on the floor of the U.S. House on January 3.
Democrats will hold at least 232 seats in the new Congress that begins in January, according to latest numbers from the Associated Press. Some House races remain undecided and the Democratic majority could grow slightly. But while the letter indicates that Pelosi has a math problem, there are already signs she may be able to overcome the opposition. "Therefore, we are committed to voting for new leadership in both our caucus meeting and on the House floor".
However, we also recognize that in this recent eleciton, Democrats ran and won on a message of change. "We promised to change the status quo, and we intend to deliver on that promise", said the statement.
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But it goes on to argue that voters showed they want change in the last election and that should include new Democratic leaders. They say years of Republican ads portraying her as an out-of-touch liberal have made it hard for moderate Democrats to win elections in swing districts. "The move to oust Pelosi comes two weeks after Democrats seized control of the House with their largest majority since 1974". Two of them - Anthony Brindisi of NY and Ben McAdams of Utah - are in races in which The Associated Press has yet to call a victor.
The letter cordially begins by thanking Pelosi for her years of service as House Speaker before calling for a "change" in leadership.
Democrats will vote on a speaker candidate in a private meeting set for November 28.
Democrats who signed the letter include 11 current lawmakers - Rice, Seth Moulton, Tim Ryan, Filemon Vela, Kurt Schraeder, Linda Sanchez, Ed Perlmutter, Stephen Lynch, Brian Higgins, Bill Foster and Jim Cooper - and four incoming ones: Anthony Brindisi, Joe Cunningham, Max Rose and Jeff Van Drew.
But the challenge upset backers of Clyburn, a former Congressional Black Caucus chairman and a revered figure among the caucus's roughly 50 African-Americans - who bristled at the notion that the caucus's top tier could be all-white.