November 20, 2018 at 7:11 pm EST | by Chris Johnson
In surprise move, Marcia Fudge endorses Nancy Pelosi for speaker

LGBT Issues are emerging as a key issue in the speaker’s race between House Minority Leader Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Rep. Marcia Fudge (D-Ohio) (Washington Blade photo of Pelosi by Michael Key; photo of Fudge by Tim Evanson via Wikimedia Commons)

A potential showdown in the new House Democratic majority in which LGBT rights would have been a major factor fizzled on Tuesday night when House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) won an endorsement from Rep. Marcia Fudge (D-Ohio), her most likely competitor.

In a surprise move, Fudge — who said she was considering a run for speaker, but never declared her candidacy — announced her endorsement of Pelosi as speaker for the 116th Congress in a statement Tuesday night.

A former chair of the Congressional Black Caucus, Fudge said Pelosi “granted me the opportunity to create the record necessary” to satisfy the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2013 decision against the Voting Rights Act, which she said will lead to protections under that law to be “reinstated and improved.”

Fudge also said Pelosi assured her the “most loyal voting bloc in the Democratic party, Black women, will have a seat at the decision-making table.”

“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,” Fudge added. “I now join my colleagues in support of the leadership team of Pelosi, Hoyer and Clyburn.”

LGBT issues were a factor in the competition between Pelosi and Fudge. A champion of the Equality Act, Pelosi as minority leader said the legislation would be a top priority in the next Congress with Democrats in control of the House.

On the other hand, Fudge has declined to support the Equality Act, which would amend the Civil Rights Act 1964, citing concerns the measure would water down the historic law when legislative action is opened.

Pelosi isn’t out of the woods yet in obtaining the 218 votes necessary for her to become speaker. On Monday, a group of 16 House Democrats unveiled a letter declaring they were committed to obtaining a change in leadership in the Democratic caucus when it takes the majority next year. Other House Democrats, including Rep. Conor Lamb (D-Pa.) made campaign promises they wouldn’t vote for Pelosi, but they didn’t sign the letter.

To keep that in perspective, Pelosi can afford to lose only 15 votes in her new Democratic majority and still have enough support to win the gavel.

But Fudge’s decision to stand down from the speaker’s race is a major blow to anti-Pelosi Democrats, who have struggled to field a candidate. It remains to be seen if another challenge will emerge and have enough votes to wrest the gavel from Pelosi.

The moment of truth will come soon. The party nominating vote within the Democratic caucus will take place Nov. 28 and the floor vote within the entire House will take place Jan. 3.

Chris Johnson is Chief Political & White House Reporter for the Washington Blade. Johnson attends the daily White House press briefings and is a member of the White House Correspondents' Association. Follow Chris

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