Washington • Rep. Jim Matheson says fellow Democrats should find someone other than House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to fill the minority leader job when Republicans take over the chamber in January.
"I think we just went through an election with a resounding result, the largest changeover since, what, 1948? I think when you go through that type of result, it's time to shake up," the Utah Democrat said in an interview two days after surviving a serious Republican challenge to his seat. "You've got to come up with a new lineup."
Matheson, the only remaining leader of the moderate Democratic caucus known as the Blue Dog Coalition, had said before the general election that he would consider not supporting Pelosi for speaker had the Democrats kept control of the House. Now that the GOP has cut down the Democrats ranks picking up 60-plus seats in the election Matheson said Pelosi needs to go.
"This was not an average election. This was a statistically extraordinary outcome and, again, I think it calls for a shake-up," said Matheson, who faced a glut of Matheson=Pelosi signs during his campaign.
The congressman, elected to a sixth term on Tuesday, said that the election bloodbath is partially the fault of Pelosi's lack of focus on the economy and jobs in early 2008, a point that earned voters' anger.
"It's not that we can't walk and chew gum at the same time and look at more than one issue," Matheson said. "I'm just saying the focus became, for example, cap-and-trade [legislation] the first several months of the new Congress when we're going into the deepest recession since the 1930s. I think there's a disconnect there in terms of what the public was focused on and what Congress was focused on."
Matheson says he doesn't yet know who he will support for minority leader or other top jobs in his caucus but that he doesn't have plans to seek any leadership role himself.
On the other side of the aisle, Rep. Rob Bishop said this election was a repudiation of Pelosi's leadership style and the ideas she pushed during her four years as speaker.
"If that isn't what the Democrats do, I would be highly surprised," Bishop said of replacing the Democratic leader.