House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi continues to project confidence that she will be elected speaker of the US House of Representatives when the new Democratic-led Congress starts in January -- but she faces a potential challenger in Rep. Marcia Fudge.
Fudge, an Ohio Democrat, has publicly said she is considering jumping into the race for speaker, though she has yet to announce a final decision. She has represented Ohio's 11th Congressional District since 2008 and is a member of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, a group of progressive Democrats in the House, and a member and former chair of the Congressional Black Caucus, an influential voting bloc in the lower chamber.
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The House speaker will be the highest position of power for the Democratic Party in the next Congress after Democrats won back control of the lower chamber in the midterm elections last week.
On Thursday, Fudge told CNN she has been "overwhelmed" by the response she has received from colleagues.
"It has been heartwarming and humbling to know how many people think that I should do this," she said.
Whoever wields the gavel will have a significant platform to challenge President Donald Trump and Republicans in Congress. The speaker will also have the ability to set the agenda in the lower chamber and decide whether and to what extent Democrats reach across the aisle.
While Fudge said Pelosi has "been a very good speaker," she nevertheless called for change.
"If we run on change, then we need change and we should not stand with the status quo," she said.
Pelosi and Fudge met on Friday. The California Democrat described the meeting via a spokesman as "a candid and respectful conversation."
After the meeting, Fudge told reporters that Pelosi did not specifically ask her not to run. Pelosi did ask what Fudge would need in order to support her bid, though. Fudge said she wanted to know about succession planning and being a more inclusive caucus.
"I think the biggest issue we discussed was the feeling within the caucus who are feeling left out and left behind," Fudge said.
Fudge was one of 17 Democrats who have signed a letter saying they will not vote for Pelosi to be speaker on the House floor.
If Fudge were to officially enter the race, her record in Congress will come under increased scrutiny.
Fudge's office is already defending the fact that she has not signed on as a cosponsor of the Equality Act, a bill that would amend the landmark 1964 Civil Rights Act to add protections against discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.
In a statement released by her office on Thursday, Fudge said, "I fully support equal rights for the LGBTQ community. There is not one vote that I have ever taken that is anti-LGBTQ."
She elaborated, saying, "What I opposed was including the Equality Act in the current Civil Rights Act. The Civil Rights Act is over 50 years old and isn't even adequate to protect the people currently in it. I want us to do a new and modern civil rights bill that protects the LGBTQ community and updates protections for this era. I do not believe it is appropriate to open and relitigate the current Civil Rights Act."
During the 2016 presidential election, she endorsed Hillary Clinton.
For her part, Pelosi doesn't sound afraid of a challenge.
"Come on in, the water's warm," she told reporters earlier in the week when asked about the possibility of an opponent.
The veteran Democratic leader, who made history as the first woman to serve as House speaker when she held the title from 2007 to 2011, has repeatedly said she believes she has the votes to win the gavel.
Democrats will select their nominee for speaker the week after Thanksgiving. A final vote on the House floor will take place in January.
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