Capitol Alert

California’s new House members choose sides in Pelosi test

Top House Democrat Nancy Pelosi of California speaks on election night in Washington, D.C. Democrats regained control of the House, and she is in line to become speaker again.
Top House Democrat Nancy Pelosi of California speaks on election night in Washington, D.C. Democrats regained control of the House, and she is in line to become speaker again. Bloomberg


House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi faces her first test in a bid to return as Speaker of the House, and most of California’s new Democratic House members are backing her.

It’s not just a test for Pelosi. Do Democrats who narrowly won in traditionally Republican House districts want to cast their first vote backing her? Could it haunt them when they seek re-election in 2020?

She’ll need a simple majority — about 118 votes — from fellow Democrats during a private caucus meeting today to get to an overall floor vote. That could come when lawmakers return to Capitol Hill in early January.

It’s unclear whether TJ Cox, who appears likely to prevail against incumbent David Valadao, will get to vote on Pelosi’s speakership today. Cox’s campaign did not respond to a request for comment on how Cox would plan to vote if he is allowed to do so.

Four of the six newly-elected California Democrats — Katie Hill (Santa Clarita), Katie Porter (Irvine), Harley Rouda (Newport Beach) and Mike Levin (Vista) — have signed onto a letter supporting Pelosi. Josh Harder of Turlock did not sign the letter and has dodged a question about whether he’ll support Pelosi. He recently told MSNBC he’s “keeping an open mind.”

Gil Cisneros (Phelan) told The Washington Post he plans to vote against Pelosi for speaker, saying, “It’s time for a new generation to rise and for new leadership in the House.”

As of Tuesday evening, The Washington Post identified 149 House Democrats supporting Pelosi, 22 opposing Pelosi and 62 somewhere in the middle. Pelosi is expected to easily cross the 118-vote threshold and get to a vote on the floor of the House.

Pelosi would need a majority of votes on the House. Without any GOP support, she could only afford around 17 defections. President Donald Trump has said he would get enough Republicans to back her. “If she needs any votes, if she asks me, I will give her the votes to put her over the top.”


Counties have 10 more days to wrap up the vote tallying. Nearly 580,000 ballots have yet to be counted, and many contests remain uncalled. These two races are the one you’ll want to most closely keep your eyes on down the home stretch:

  • House District 21: Rep. David Valadao, R-Hanford, trails Democratic challenger TJ Cox by 436 votes — a difference of 0.4 percentage points. Cox has made inroads in Fresno County and Kern County, but several thousand votes remain uncounted.
  • Assembly District 77: A win here could give Democrats a 61st seat in the state Assembly. The party is already on track to have its greatest advantage in the Assembly since 1883. The district is located entirely in San Diego County, which still has several thousand votes remaining. Republican Brian Maienschein is holding onto a slim 864-vote lead. Democratic challenger Sunday Gover would need to pick at least 55 percent of the remaining votes to take the district. San Diego County still has 47,000 outstanding ballots, and roughly one-fifth of them are likely to come from this district. The area will update its results on Friday afternoon.

Process: Counties have until Dec. 7 to count and certify the votes. The secretary of state’s office has another week, or Dec. 14, to certify the results.


Sen. Dianne Feinstein — “In 1977, Harvey Milk’s election marked a moment of hope and progress not only for San Francisco, but the entire nation. It’s truly a testament to his legacy that he is so warmly remembered 40 years after his assassination. Today, we celebrate what Harvey stood for.”

MUST-READ: It’s been decades since California Democrats had this much power at the Capitol