WASHINGTON — Democratic congressional leaders tried to project confidence after two election losses this week, but bubbling anger from the party’s rank-and-file on Capitol Hill yesterday spurred demands for new leadership — including some calls for Minority Leaders Nancy Pelosi’s ouster — as the party pushes toward next year’s midterm elections.

“It’s time for change, and personally I think it’s time for a new generation of leadership in the party,” U.S. Rep. Seth Moulton (D-Salem) told reporters on Capitol Hill yesterday, though he stopped short of explicitly calling for Pelosi’s ouster.

Asked if that meant Pelosi should go, Moulton — who backed Ohio Rep. Tim Ryan’s challenge to Pelosi’s leadership post last year — said: “I think that’s a question for the caucus to decide.”

Other Democrats were more blunt.

“I think you’d have to be an idiot to think we could win the House with Pelosi at the top,” Rep. Filemon Vela of Texas, who supported Pelosi’s bid to keep her leadership seat last year, told Politico.

The Democratic frustration follows two special election defeats Tuesday. In the closely watched Georgia 6th District race, Democrat Jon Ossoff lost despite $30 million spent to back his bid against Republican Karen Handel. In South Carolina’s 5th District race, where Democrats spent only $250,000, Archie Parnell lost by an even narrower margin to Republican Ralph Norman.

“I think our leadership owes an explanation of what happened, how resources were spent, but also a plan going forward,” Moulton said yesterday.

At a closed-door Democratic caucus meeting the frustration was palpable, according to people who were in the room, despite Pelosi’s efforts to frame the results as evidence of incremental Democratic progress in deep red districts.

“Unfortunately a loss for us, but not good news for them,” Pelosi told members. “We gave them a run for their money.”

Rep. Ben Ray Lujan of New Mexico, chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, expressed optimism that Democrats can still take control of Congress’ lower chamber next year, declaring, “The House is in play.”

“I know it’s easy to feel disappointed and defeated,” Lujan said in a video message to Democrats. “But today I don’t feel that way at all — I feel proud.”

Lujan said Tuesday’s results show Democrats have the momentum to flip the 24 seats they need to reclaim control.

“The energy is still on our side,” Lujan said. “This race proved that Democrats have a real shot at taking back the House in 2018.”

But others, including Moulton, said momentum is not enough. Moulton yesterday endorsed eight military veteran congressional candidates in races across the country, some of whom immediately took up Moulton’s messaging for change.

“Honor & Duty must be restored in Congress. It’s time for new leadership. #CountryBeforeParty,” tweeted former Navy pilot Ken Harbaugh, who is challenging Ohio GOP U.S. Rep. Bob Gibbs.

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(c)2017 the Boston Herald

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