Two Massachusetts Democrats said Tuesday that it could be time to dump Rep. Nancy Pelosi as its top House leader.
In a joint interview, Reps. Stephen Lynch and Michael Capuano each told WGBH in Boston that they don’t believe Pelosi, the California Democrat who was House speaker from 2007 through early 2011 and has been minority leader since then, can help Democrats retake control of the chamber.
“Nancy Pelosi will not lead us back into the majority,” Lynch said.
Capuano offered a similar take, saying, “I think we need leadership that understands if something you’re doing is not working, change what you’re doing.”
Asked if that means it’s time for Pelosi to go, he said: “That or she should change, one way or the other. We just lost more seats last cycle.”
The criticism was especially stinging coming from Capuano, who Pelosi tapped in 2006 to head up the transition team when Democrats took control of the House and she ascended to the speakership. Pelosi also endorsed Capuano when he ran in 2009 for the Senate against Martha Coakley, who lost to Republican Scott Brown.
He walked back his comments on Wednesday, telling CNN in a statement that Pelosi is a “fantastic public servant with many great accomplishments.”
“Since 2010, something hasn’t been resonating at the polls,” he said. “I believe that when something’s not working, changes should be made. Any leader who refuses to change in the face of failure should step aside. I believe, however, that Nancy Pelosi is making the changes necessary to lead House Democrats back to electoral success and I still believe she will do so.”
Still, their comments to WGBH were rare on-the-record acknowledgment of the frustration House Democrats have felt since being relegated to minority status.
A spokesman for Pelosi said in a statement Wednesday that she “values the input of her members.”
“The Leader was re-elected unanimously in her caucus in November and appreciated the support of both of these members in the floor vote in January. While there are disagreements in the closest of families, the Leader always values the input of her members as we develop our message going forward,” Drew Hammill said.
Pelosi, 75, vowed to stay on as Democratic leader even after her party was shellacked at the polls in the November 2014 midterm elections – pointing out that top Senate Republican Mitch McConnell kept his post despite his party failing to gain a majority in three straight election cycles.
The National Republican Campaign Committee jumped on the comments from Lynch and Capuano on Wednesday, with spokesman Ian Prior saying they reflect “a sentiment that should be obvious to House Democrats by now – Nancy Pelosi will not lead Democrats back to the majority despite her delusional predictions to the contrary.”
“While we appreciate the honesty of Lynch and Capuano, we sincerely hope that Democrats continue to elect Pelosi as leader so that we can continue to help elect Republicans to Congress on Election Day,” Prior said.
CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story misstated the call sign for the Boston TV station WGBH.