House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said Wednesday the shocking upset in a New York primary election should not be seen a referendum on the Democratic Party as a whole or on her role as a party leader.
Pelosi spoke a day after 28-year-old political novice Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez trounced Rep. Joe Crowley, one of the most powerful Democrats in the House, in the primary contest for New York's 14th Congressional District. Crowley had been in Congress for nearly 20 years.
"People are saying, ‘Oh, it’s because of this, it’s because of that.’ It’s because of a number of things," Pelosi, D-Calif., told reporters at a news conference that had been called to discuss protections for health-care coverage of pre-existing conditions.
"People will chose their leaders as they do," Pelois added. "It’s not about me setting somebody up."
Crowley, 56, was accused of being out of touch with voters during the campaign. Ocasio-Cortez was endorsed by Democratic Socialists of America and ran a more progressive campaign.
Asked if the Democratic leadership ought to look more like Ocasio-Cortez — younger, more progressive and female — Pelosi shot back: "Well, I’m female and progressive, and the rest so what’s your problem?"
The 78-year-old Pelosi, who has been in Congress since 1987, faces resistance to her leadership from her own party ahead of the November midterm elections. Several candidates have vowed to vote against her as speaker if Democrats retake the House. Just the threat of Pelosi retaking the gavel has been used by Republicans to motivate their voters.
Democrats are trying to cut off that angle of attack by speaking out against her or denying their support. Democrat Conor Lamb, who won a red district in Pennsylvania in March, said he would not support Pelosi for speaker. Ocasio-Cortez herself stopped short of supporting Pelosi after her stunning victory.
Crowley reportedly had possible ambitions to vie for House speaker against Pelosi if her potential bid failed, though he has said he wouldn't run against Pelosi.
Pelosi shot down reporters' questions about whether the upset represents a shift to the left for the Democratic party.
"Nobody’s district is representative of somebody else’s district," she said. "It should not be viewed as something that stands for everything else."