Rep. Brian Higgins (D-Buffalo) is considering a bid to unseat Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-San Francisco) as Minority Leader of the House Democrats, says a source close to the Congressman. Pelosi is weathering a storm of critics following a fourth consecutive loosing election for House Democrats, who have been unable to retake the chamber since Pelosi was ousted as Speaker following the 2010 midterm elections.
Such a match up would dramatically illustrate the geographic and economic divides inside the Democratic Party, pitting two very different types of Democrats in an almost assuredly heated battle.
Pelosi is married to a wealthy venture capitalist and lives in San Francisco — a financial center and hub of tech innovation that is simultaneously among the wealthiest places in the world and the most homeless. She is one of the wealthiest and most liberal members of Congress. Her father was the Mayor of Baltimore and her family has been deeply immersed in Democratic Party politics for generations.
Higgins is a less polished, more rough and tumble Irish Democrat from South Buffalo, the same Rust Belt neighborhood that spawned high-profile Trump-backer Carl Paladino. He is the ranking member of the House Homeland Security’s subcommittee on counter intelligence, and sits on House Foreign Affairs committee. He is among the least wealthy members of Congress, harbors a Midwestern policy perspective, and appeals to working class voters in way that Pelosi flatly did not.
Pelosi is a prolific fundraiser, but Higgins is from Trump country where normal political calculus does not apply. That is to say, if he were to make a bid for Speaker, Higgins will be awarded (rather than punished) by his constituency of Rust Belt moderates who are anti-Washington in tone and temperament. The more money that Pelosi spends to attack him, the more popular he will become among his supporters. Perhaps it can be called the Trump effect.
It is unclear whether Higgins would have the votes to unseat Pelosi, but there is much discontent inside the caucus. For the last six years (and for at least two more) House Democrats have been on the outs — largely irrelevant within the federal government. It has become beyond clear that Pelosi is far too tired, old, and out of touch with middle America to retain her leadership position or to even be an effective spokesperson in the national discourse. Her wealth is off putting and her style is too provincial to the Bay area for the national zeitgeist.
The House tends to host a peculiarly submissive membership. Higgins is a six term member and lacks a chairmanship that would give him policy heft and a platform from which to brand himself. That he would challenge a dinosaur like Pelosi would raise eyebrows, to say the least. Keep your eye on the defense contractors who have the cash and clout to make the leadership change happen. Higgins is a favorite of Honeywell, Lockheed, and Boeing — all of whom tire of Pelosi’s more vocal anti-war views.
But Higgins has been toying with the idea of leaving Congress for a more local and more perky position without the public scrutiny. Some have floated his name as a prospective President of Erie Community College or the University at Buffalo. Others say that Higgins would be a valuable lobbyist for a firm like Moog or Corning, for whom government contracting presents considerable growth opportunities.