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Marcia Fudge backs Nancy Pelosi for House speaker

November 21, 2018

Rep. Marcia Fudge of Ohio said Tuesday she will not run for speaker and backed current Democratic leadership, giving Rep. Nancy Pelosi a major boost in her bid to take up the gavel as opponents struggle to find an alternative candidate.

In a statement, Ms. Fudge said she thought hard about a run but relented after Mrs. Pelosi, the longtime Democratic leader, pledged to give black women a seat at the “decision-making table” and do the heavy lifting necessary to restore protections in the Voting Rights Act, after a 2013 Supreme Court struck a key part of the law.

“I am now confident that we will move forward together and that the 116th Congress will be a Congress of which we can all be proud,” she said.

Mrs. Pelosi, in kind, said she was restoring the Elections Subcommittee of the Committee on House Administration the GOP scrapped it in 2013 and naming Ms. Fudge as its chair, saying Congress must fight “brazenly partisan efforts” to throw roadblocks in front of the ballot box.

Ms. Fudge said she will back Mrs. Pelosi for speaker, Rep. Steny Hoyer for majority leader and Rep. James Clyburn as majority whip.

The timing of her about-face is notable.

Ms. Fudge was facing a growing backlash over her decision in 2015 to vouch for a former Cleveland-area judge, Lance Mason, who’d admitted to beating his wife, Aisha Fraser. The same man was arrested in Shaker Heights, Ohio, on Saturday as a suspect in the same woman’s death.

Earlier on Tuesday, 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 in the earlier statement. “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.”

Ms. Fudge’s withdrawal leaves a rump group of Pelosi opponents without a clear candidate ahead of a caucus vote on Nov. 28 and full floor vote on Jan. 3.

The rebels say voters who handed Democrats the majority want changes, and that means new leadership, but it’s unclear who would lead that mantle.

Ms. Fudge initially signaled opposition to Mrs. Pelosi continuing as leader the Californian’s been the face of the caucus since 2003.

But she didn’t sign the most recent iteration of a Pelosi-opposition letter released by 16 current members and a handful of incoming Democratic freshmen.

Mrs. Fudge’s decision to stick with current leadership capped a glowing 48 hours for Mrs. Pelosi.

A rising party star, Rep.-elect Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, backed Mrs. Pelosi as the “most progressive candidate” running for speaker, while former President Obama offered effusive praise on Tuesday.

“I think Nancy Pelosi, when the history is written, will go down as one of the most effective legislative leaders that this country’s ever seen,” Mr. Obama said on a taping of “The Axe Files” podcast hosted by David Axelrod, his former top strategist and a CNN contributor.

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