WASHINGTON – Rep. Heath Shuler earned 11 votes Wednesday in his bid for speaker of the House – falling far short of winning but making his point, he said, that Nancy Pelosi isn’t the universal favorite to lead Democrats this Congress.
Shuler, a Waynesville Democrat from the 11th Congressional District, said last fall he would run against Pelosi to lead the party. Democrats took a drubbing in the November mid-term elections, with the losses of many of Shuler’s like-minded Southern conservatives.
He said this week he would take his opposition to the House floor.
“The American people are tired of the usual partisan bickering and gridlock that prevents us from moving our country forward,” Shuler said in a statement Wednesday. “We need more moderate voices in Congress -- on both sides of the political aisle -- that represent the majority of Americans, not just the fringes on the right and left. That’s what this campaign was about.”
U.S. Rep. John Boehner of Ohio earned the title of speaker, as was expected with the Republican majority of the House. But members traditionally vote for the top representative within their own party, meaning Democrats were expected to support Pelosi, the outgoing speaker, of California.
By tradition, all 435 members announce their choice by name in a lengthy, alphabetical roll call vote. During the vote, Shuler sat close to the center aisle, surrounded mostly by other moderate Democrats, grim-faced as the roll call went on.
The first to say Shuler’s name was the sixth person down the roll, U.S. Rep. Jason Altmire of Pennsylvania. His vote inspired murmurs in the galleries and throughout the House floor.
He was followed by 10 others: Larry Kissell and Mike McIntyre of North Carolina, along with U.S. Reps. Dan Boren of Oklahoma, Jim Cooper of Tennessee, Joe Donnelly of Indiana, Tim Holden of Pennsylvania, Jim Matheson of Utah, Michael Michaud of Maine, and Mike Ross of Arkansas. Shuler also voted for himself.
“It just reflects about how we feel about winning back districts we lost,” Kissell said after the vote. “There’s respect for where we’ve been, but we want to go forward.”
In the end, 19 Democrats voted for someone other than Pelosi – but they weren’t just supporting Shuler. Six other House members also got at least one vote; U.S. Rep. John Lewis of Georgia got two.
U.S. Rep. Sanford Bishop of Georgia voted “present,” making no choice.