Updated at 9:25 AM with comment from Leonard Lance’s campaign.
UNION – Unlike Mikie Sherrill, Tom Malinowski isn’t ready to say he won’t vote House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi into a leadership role.
“I completely understand the desire for younger leadership in the party. We have no idea who our candidates are going to be if I win this race, if we win control of the congress,” Malinowski said before a campaign rally in Union Monday. “If we get to that point, I’m going to come home to the district, I’m going to talk to people here about what they want to see, and I will reflect their will.”
Malinowski, who won organizational lines from all six counties in the seventh congressional district, said that, at this point, he was focusing on policy issues, like affordable healthcare, affordable college tuition and the Gateway Tunnel, that he believes are important to voters.
Like Sherrill, Malinowski faces primary challenges from the left. Peter Jacob, something of a longshot candidate who has secured endorsements from some progressive groups, and Goutam Jois, an attorney who has previously advised against attempting to find common ground with Republican opponents, fall to the left of the former ambassador.
Jois has managed to raise a competitive amount of money in the race for the Democratic nomination to face Rep. Leonard Lance and is likely Malinowski’s biggest hurdle on the road to the nomination. He even made an unannounced appearance at Malinowski’s Monday rally in an apparent attempt to win over some of its attendees.
While disavowing Pelosi, who is less popular among young and more liberal Democrats than she is with the old guard, could help Malinowski in the primary and curb some attacks in the general, he won’t be going there yet.
“Right now, I’m focused on the issues that people are asking me about every single day. No voter has asked me about Nancy Pelosi,” Malinowski said. “They want to know what I’m going to do about healthcare, gateway, taxes protecting our country, protecting our democracy.”
Lance’s campaign says it’s no surprise that Malinowski might be a Pelosi-backer.
“Of course Tom Malinowski supports Nancy Pelosi. He’s a DC insider who lives in DC, breathes DC air, pays DC property taxes and will support the liberal DC establishment led by Pelosi,” said Jim Hilk, Lance’s campaign manager. “He should at least be honest with 7th District voters and admit a vote for Tom Malinowski is a vote for Speaker Pelosi”