Marcia Fudge, mulling speaker bid, faces Ohio firestorm

November 20, 2018

Rep. Marcia Fudge, the Ohio Democrat mulling a bid for speaker, tried to distance herself Tuesday from 2015 statements she made in support of former judge who admitted to beating his wife and is now suspected in her death.

Ms. Fudge hasn’t said whether she will challenge to longtime Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi for the gavel, as a rump group of party rebels demand new leadership.

But her decision to vouch for former Cuyahoga County Judge Lance Mason could complicate any bid.

The congresswoman was among a list of prominent figures, including lawyers and judges, who voiced support for Mr. Mason after he admitted to punching and biting his wife, Aisha Fraser, in front of their children. They condemned the attack but said he was a good man who made “a very bad mistake.”

On Saturday, police in the Shaker Heights east of Cleveland arrested Mr. Mason as a suspect in the stabbing death of his ex-wife.

Ms. Fudge said her “heart breaks” for Ms. Fraser and her children.

“My support of Lance in 2015 was based on the person I knew for almost 30 years,” she said Tuesday. “The person who committed these crimes is not the Lance Mason familiar to me. They were horrific crimes, and I condemn them. I and everyone who knew Aisha are mourning her loss.”

The case is causing a firestorm back in Cleveland, however, right as Ms. Fudge mulls whether to take on Mrs. Pelosi, who’s led House Democrats since 2003 and served as speaker from 2007 to 2011.

Sixteen current and incoming House Democrats have indicated they’ll refuse to support Mrs. Pelosi in a Nov. 28 caucus vote or before the full House on Jan. 3.

Several more Democrats may refuse to back her, posing a mathematical challenge for Mrs. Pelosi, who enjoys broad support from the caucus but may need to wrangle some votes back to her side to get 218 votes on the floor.

The rebels say voters who handed Democrats the majority want changes, and that means new leadership. Some incoming freshmen vowed not to back Mrs. Pelosi during the campaign, yet the dissidents don’t have a clear alternative to Mrs. Pelosi.

Rep. Tim Ryan, Ohio Democrat, and others encouraged Ms. Fudge to consider a bid, though that was before the stunning incident in Shaker Heights.

Authorities say its unclear what led to Saturday’s fatal attack, according to a report Cleveland.com

Mr. Mason, 51, has already been charged with felonious assault after crashing into a police SUV responding to a 911 call from Mr. Mason’s sister.

The newspaper said Mr. Mason remains hospitalized, as he faces more charges tied to his ex-wife’s death.

Update hourly