Rep. Jim Matheson, D-Utah, became the first House Democrat to publicly oppose House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi's bid to remain at the head of the caucus Wednesday, telling the Salt Lake Tribune he will vote against her again. From the Tribune:
"If we had new leadership, that helps create a new opportunity for working in a constructive way," Matheson said.
Matheson has no intention of running as an alternative to Pelosi.
Outgoing Rep. Heath Shuler, D-N.C., challenged Pelosi for Democratic leader in 2010 and drew 43 votes away from her in the Democratic caucus's internal vote. Nineteen Democrats also voted against Pelosi in the House floor vote for Speaker, though nine of them won't be returning to Congress next year: Reps. Jason Altmire and Tim Holden lost primaries, Rep. Larry Kissell lost in the general, and the other six -- Dan Boren, Dennis Cardoza, Joe Donnelly, Gabrielle Giffords, Mike Ross and Shuler -- resigned or retired.
Nearly all of the anti-Pelosi voters, including the 10 that remain, hailed from Republican-leaning districts and felt pressure to break with Pelosi and steer the caucus in another direction after Republicans made the then-Speaker a bogeyman in TV ads across the country in the 2010 elections. Fully eight of the 12 Democrats representing districts John McCain won voted for Shuler on the House floor in January 2011. Redistricting and last week's election drastically reduced the number of such split-district members (on both sides of the aisle), but there is still concern about Pelosi's leadership among Blue Dog Democrats like Matheson and other moderates, making it likely we'll see some oppose her leadership bid again this year.
No one has stepped forward yet -- like Shuler did in 2010 -- to challenge Pelosi, and any latent opposition to Pelosi could fizzle without an outlet whipping support. We'll be keeping track of additional Democratic members who come out against Pelosi's continued leadership of their caucus, with a special eye toward those, like Matheson, who represent difficult congressional districts.