Once a critic, Moulton says Pelosi broke ‘one of the toughest glass ceilings’

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Congressman Seth Moulton was a prominent face behind two unsuccessful challenges to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s leadership of House Democrats after the 2016 election and the 2018 election. He has never minced words with regard to his past dissatisfaction with the San Francisco Democrat’s leadership. 

On Thursday, that past history pivoted to “water under the bridge.” Moulton characterized his former political foe as “a historic speaker and legendary Democrat” in a press statement on Thursday afternoon after Pelosi, the first woman to hold the House speakership, announced she would not seek a leadership position when the 118th Congress gavels into session in January. She will, however, remain in Congress to serve her two-year term. 

The announcement arrives weeks after the speaker’s husband, Paul, was attacked in the couple’s San Francisco home. In Washington, many were calling her decision the end of a political era. 

Pelosi has led the Democrats for two decades, championing legislation from the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” to the Affordable Care Act. 

Moulton, however, attributed a big part of what he considers Democratic missteps in years past to House leadership. 

‘The status quo isn’t working’

Before the 115th Congress gaveled into session in 2017, Moulton joined 62 other Democrats who backed Rep. Tim Ryan of Ohio for the House minority leader post. President Donald Trump had just won the White House, and Republicans retained control in the House and the Senate.

Moulton’s ire, in part, was directed at Pelosi’s leadership. 

“Clearly, the status quo isn’t working,” he told distraught 6th District Democrats piled into the Waterfront Hotel in Salem the morning after the 2016 election. “The idea that we can just go forward expecting the same plan, the same message, the same messengers and suddenly start winning, I think is dead wrong.” 

Democrats would win the House back in 2018. Voters elected the most progressive, diverse and young class of federal lawmakers in the county’s history. And before the 116th Congress began,  Moulton put himself front and center, leading an unpopular, weeks-long crusade against Pelosi becoming House speaker. 

The Salem Democrat circulated a letter for his fellow members to sign, pledging they wouldn’t support Pelosi. Some saw Moulton’s opposition as sexist, while others pegged his defiance as a distraction after such a historic win. 

However, those descriptors were pinned on a congressman who has a history of not only marching to the beat of his own drum but also advocating for younger members to be involved in the party’s leadership.

When he unseated nine-term John Tierney in the 2014 state primary, Moulton stunned “establishment” Democrats like Pelosi, who stumped in the 6th Congressional District for Tierney.

On that year’s campaign trail, he told voters Washington needed a new generation of younger leaders. He expressed frustration at the House Democratic Caucus re-electing a trio of septuagenarians to top leadership positions following each two-year election cycle. He also felt the party’s leadership ignored younger members, failing to carve out opportunities to rise in the  Democratic ranks. 

But on Thursday afternoon, Moulton showered nothing but praise on Pelosi. 

“Breaking one of the toughest glass ceilings in the country, she inspired generations of women and set an example I will use with my two daughters,” he said. “I am grateful for what she has done for our party.” 

He added, “I am excited to support a new leader who will move us forward. Democrats need to come together focused squarely on the future.”

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