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Long IslandColumnistsDan Janison

Kathleen Rice backs new anti-Pelosi push after GOP wins

Rep. Kathleen Rice speaks during a town hall

Rep. Kathleen Rice speaks during a town hall meeting at Mineola Middle School on March 4, 2017. Credit: Steve Pfost

Rep. Kathleen Rice had little to risk when she stepped forward Thursday to urge new leadership for her party’s hapless House caucus.

Rice, of Garden City, already had backed Rep. Tim Ryan of Ohio in his drive seven months ago to replace California Rep. Nancy Pelosi as boss of the Democratic conference.

Pelosi, who’s led the party’s members in Congress since 2003, won that vote 134 to 63. But it didn’t douse the fires of discontent and ambition among her peers.

The Democrats on Tuesday suffered yet another high-profile, big-money loss in trying to capture a GOP seat in a special election. The latest setbacks, in Georgia and South Carolina, prompted Rice, Ryan and other dipleased Democrats to demand Pelosi give up the reins.

Consider the climate.

President Donald Trump taunted on Twitter: “I certainly hope the Democrats do not force Nancy P out. That would be very bad for the Republican Party ... ”

Rice said harsh GOP attacks on Pelosi during local House campaigns “aren’t fair or justified.” Still, she said, the GOP “keeps using this playbook because they see that it works.

“That’s a fact we can’t keep ignoring.

“I sat in a meeting the other day and heard a rationale about how we should be happy we didn’t lose as badly two days ago as we did a year ago,” she told CNN.

Rice’s comments largely reflected those of Ryan, who said Thursday: “You see these commercials that tie [Democratic] candidates to Leader Pelosi week in and week out in the last several months. That still moves the needle, you know?”

Back home, Rice can afford to be seen bucking Pelosi, whom the GOP caricatures as a zany San Francisco lefty.

As a second-termer in Congress, Rice has little seniority and, being low on the totem pole, holds little stake in Pelosi, who’s now in her second tenure as minority leader after serving as speaker during the last two presidencies.

“Nancy Pelosi was a great Speaker. She was a great leader, but her time has come and gone,” Rice said on NBC’s “Morning Joe,” rolling out the same talking points on CNN’s “New Day.”

If Ryan takes the helm, early alliance with Rice could put her in good stead. In any case, she seems unikely to face the powerful penalty of a primary candidate against her.

Democrats outnumber Republicans in Nassau’s 4th district. Hillary Clinton beat Donald Trump there 53 to 44 percent, while Rice won on the same November ballot 59 to 41 percent.

For context: Legislative leaders, elected from a single district, are often pilloried in local races by the opposing party. And individual lawmakers in the minority party, deprived of clout and attention, have less fun than their adversaries.


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