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Ohio Rep. Tim Ryan Steps Up Challenge To Nancy Pelosi


Democrats are deciding which leaders they hope can guide them out of the wilderness. And we now know that Nancy Pelosi, the House Democratic leader for many years, will face a challenge in a leadership election this month. The challenger is Tim Ryan. He's a congressman from northeast Ohio, and he's on the line.

Congressman, good morning.

TIM RYAN: Good morning to you.

INSKEEP: What's wrong with your current leadership?

RYAN: Well, we keep losing (laughter). I mean, I think after Tuesday and I think going back to 2010, didn't win enough seats in '12, lost in '14 and didn't have a good enough year this year - I think it's just time for a change. I got a lot of respect for Nancy Pelosi. I love her. She was a mentor of mine. But I just think we need a change now. We got shellacked. The Democrats are in the wilderness, as you said. And we need to go in another direction.

INSKEEP: And you put out a statement saying that you wanted to somehow reconnect with white, blue-collar voters, the kinds of voters who seem to have gone for Donald Trump.

RYAN: Well, I didn't say white, blue-collar voters. I said blue-collar voters.


RYAN: White, black, brown - these are our people that I think felt very much left behind, that nobody was really talking to them. And I think we ignored them so much that a guy like Donald Trump stepped in and becomes president of the United States. I mean, that's our fault.

If we have been disconnected from working-class folks, then, you know, that's our problem. And we've got to address that, and we got to address it quickly. And these are working-class people. They don't want to get retrained, you know, to run a computer. They want to run a backhoe. They want to build things. Some people want retrained, and that's fine. But others want to have us get this manufacturing base up and running again in the United States. It's important for the Democrats to do that.

INSKEEP: That's an interesting point because the economy has changed. Even a manufacturing job might be working at a computer keyboard these days.

RYAN: There's no question about it. But there are a lot of jobs still that - in the building and construction trades and in other things that - you know, people want a job. They've been hearing for years, oh, we'll get you retrained. We'll get you retrained. And that's part of it. I'm not ignoring that. That's a critical part of what we need to do. But that's not it.

You know, we need to get jobs. And we need to get them in areas like mine in Youngstown, Ohio, down in coal country. You know, these people are human beings. They're American citizens. They work hard. They play by the rules. And their voice needs to be heard. And I think we need to reach out to them. And if we're going to get into the majority as Democrats, we need those people to leave Trump and come to the Democrats.

INSKEEP: Congressman - a few seconds here - you are challenging Nancy Pelosi. She's very strong in her caucus. And she's actually sent out a letter saying, quote, "I am pleased to report the support of more than two-thirds of the caucus." If she's right, you lose.

RYAN: I've seen a lot of letters in my 14 years in Congress where people have said they had votes that they didn't have, and they ended up losing races. We're running really, really hard. The people in Congress now, they want change, too. We've got to do something different.

And, as I said, this isn't a personal vendetta. I've never had an ambition to be in House leadership. But on Tuesday, I think we all had to re-evaluate. And we're working really hard. We got - a lot of people are excited about moving forward in a new direction.

INSKEEP: Congressman Tim Ryan of northeast Ohio, thanks very much.

RYAN: Thank you, sir. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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