Welcome to Congress! Now start worrying about reelection.
Freshman Democrats from tough districts didn’t have the easiest start to their tenure in Congress on Thursday, with the closely watched vote for House speaker that always kicks off the start of a new session.
Many had promised to support someone other than House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) on the campaign trail, or at least had made vague comments about wanting new leadership as they sought to avoid being tied to their party’s leader. But more than three-quarters of the freshmen who flipped GOP-held districts voted for Pelosi on Thursday.
Democrats won 43 House seats in the midterms, losing three seats for a net of 40 pending the outcome of North Carolina’s scandal-tarred election. Just 11 of those Democrats voted against Pelosi or voted “present” in their first vote as congressmen, including Rep. Conor Lamb (D-PA), who won a special election last April but took his first vote for speaker on Thursday.
The freshman Democrats who didn’t back Pelosi: Reps. Anthony Brindisi (D-NY), Jason Crow (D-CO), Joe Cunningham (D-SC), Jared Golden (D-ME), Ben McAdams (D-UT), Max Rose (D-NY), Mike Sherrill (D-NJ), Elissa Slotkin (D-MI), Abigail Spanberger (D-VA) and Jeff Van Drew (D-NJ).
Notably, 10 of those 11 members come from districts that President Trump carried in 2016. Only Crow’s district was carried by Clinton.
But plenty of other Democrats from Trump districts backed Pelosi anyway, including some surprises.
Nearly half of the 43 new Democratic districts are ones where Trump beat Hillary Clinton in 2016 — 21 of the 43 seats. That means nearly a dozen Democrats from Trump districts voted for Pelosi: Reps. Kendra Horn (D-OK), Xochitl Torres Small (D-NM), Antonio Delgado (D-NY), Andy Kim (D-NJ), Haley Stevens (D-MI), Lauren Underwood (D-IL), Cindy Axne (D-IA), Abby Finkenauer (D-IA), Elaine Luria (D-VA), Lucy McBath (D-GA) and Angie Craig (D-MN).
Horn and Torres Small arguably took the biggest risks with their votes. The two are the only freshmen from districts Trump won by double-digit margins who voted for Pelosi on Thursday. Trump won Horn’s district by more than 13 points and Torres Small’s district by just over 10 points.
The demographic splits in which Trump-district Democrats voted for Pelosi and which didn’t are interesting as well.
Eight of the 11 freshman Democrats who voted against Pelosi are male and all of them are white. Nine of the 11 Trump-district Democrats who voted for her are female, and none of them are white men.
The National Republican Congressional Committee was quick to jump on the vote, sending out text messages targeting the Democrats’ new constituents in 15 districts across the country in their first paid attacks of the 2020 election cycle. The committee has long used Pelosi as a bogeyman, and their move suggests that will continue.
All of the NRCC-targeted members were freshmen. Interestingly, though, only six of of those 15 were from districts Trump won, leaving six more Trump-district freshman Democrats alone for the time being.