The North Shore’s Democratic congressional representatives say their party needs new strategies after its losses in this year’s general election.
Rep. Kathleen Rice (D-Garden City) continued to advocate last week for greater accountability for leaders in the House’s Democratic caucus after Rep. Nancy Pelosi of California won an eighth term as Democratic leader.
Rice backed Pelosi’s challenger, Ohio Rep. Tim Ryan, calling him “the one person who’s starting those tough conversations that so many of us wanted our entire caucus to have” in the wake of Republican Donald Trump’s victory in the presidential election and Democrats’ underwhelming performance in House and Senate races.
“My concern is that leadership feels that we have to just wait until 2018 and it’s going to be a referendum on Trump and we’re just going to zoom back to the majority,” Rice, who recently won a second term, told Newsday last week. “We can’t rely on those kinds of assumptions.”
Rice’s office did not respond to interview requests.
Rep.-elect Tom Suozzi, who will replace Rep. Steve Israel in the North Shore’s 3rd Congressional District, declined to say whom he voted for in the leadership race, but he said Democrats need to go beyond messaging and political tactics to win back the House.
Instead, he said, they should be more open about the influence of religious faith in their public lives to combat Republicans’ dominance with religious voters.
“I think a lot of people are motivated by the concept of ‘love thy neighbor,’ and I think if people believe that more about each other, they’d be a lot more effective in finding common ground,” Suozzi said in an interview.
House Democrats re-elected Pelosi 134-63 last Wednesday. She has been the Democratic leader since 2003 and was House speaker from 2007 to 2011, when her party controlled the chamber.
Rice and other Democrats have argued the party needs to appeal more strongly to the working-class voters who played a role in Trump’s victory over Hillary Clinton and suppressed Democrats’ gains in Congress.
Ryan, a native of northeast Ohio who represents the Rust Belt cities of Akron and Youngstown, told reporters he was best equipped to do that “because those are the voters who voted for me,” according to CNN.
“He’s focused on standing up to Trump and showing that Democrats are the real champions of the working class and the ones who truly respect working people,” Rice, a former Nassau County district attorney, said in a statement last month.
House Democrats did approve measures last Thursday allowing caucus members to vote for the head of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, whom the minority leader previously appointed, and to create posts for a first-term representative and a member who has served fewer than five terms.
Suozzi, a former Nassau County executive, said he is unsure whether a greater emphasis on faith would win over many Republican voters, but it would likely help build bridges to compromise with Republican officials.
Some 79 percent of registered Republican voters identified as Protestant or Catholic in a July survey by the Pew Research Center, compared with 60 percent of registered Democrats. Some 28 percent of Democrats said they were religiously unaffiliated, compared with 12 percent of Republicans.
“I just think it would be a good way to get people to talk with each other and work with each other if they have that sense of commonality, and I think it would be a good way to communicate with voters generally,” he said.
Reach reporter Noah Manskar by e-mail at [email protected] or by phone at 516.307.1045 x204. Also follow us on Twitter @noahmanskar and Facebook at facebook.com/theislandnow.