Yesterday, Rochester Post-Bulletin Washington bureau staff writer Ed Felker reported on Walz's position on today's majority leader contest. According to the Post-Bulletin, he's not publicly taking sides.
Both Murtha and Hoyer helped Walz in his successful campaign for office. Murtha served as the attraction for a Veterans for Walz houseparty in Rochester, while Hoyer headlined a fundraiser in Minneapolis:
WASHINGTON -- The new Democratic House majority faces its first test Thursday with the selection of majority leader, an election that has Rep.-elect Tim Walz of Mankato getting a lot of attention.
Walz has declined to endorse either candidate, Minority Whip Steny Hoyer of Maryland or Rep. John Murtha of Pennsylvania, for the No. 2 job under expected House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California.
Both Hoyer and Murtha backed Walz in his campaign for the House's 1st District seat. Murtha appeared with Walz in Rochester, and Hoyer helped Walz raise money in Minneapolis, in addition to calling Walz in the campaign's final days to reiterate his support.
Walz said Tuesday that he is weighing Pelosi's weekend endorsement of Murtha, a decorated war veteran who came out against the war in Iraq last year to blistering criticism from congressional Republicans. "That's a big part in it," he said.
A veteran himself, Walz would not say he will side with Murtha in the secret ballot on Thursday and plans to keep his choice to himself until then. He has been talking to both candidates and their supporters for reasons to back one over the other.
"What's the best for our caucus and our country? That's what I'm trying to figure out," he said.
Felker writes that Walz met White House political director Karl Rove on Monday, and that Bush remembered the rally in Mankato that set Walz on the campaign trail:
On Monday, he attended a new-members reception at the White House, where he met President Bush and political adviser Karl Rove, who was convinced Walz would lose. "He said, 'we had the numbers on you, we thought we had enough, but where did you find the voters?'" Walz said.
Walz noted that President Bush remembered the Mankato rally in 2004 where he and two students were removed due to a John Kerry sticker on one of the students' wallets. "That was kind of fun," Walz said of the president's comment. Walz credits that event as one of the most important in his decision to run for office.
He called Bush's comments to the new lawmakers conciliatory. "There is a brand new tone. I think people understand the gravity of the situation ... it seems authentic to me."
Walz is aggressively working to score seats on important House committees:
Walz won't know for some time whether he will win his desired seats on the Veterans Affairs Committee and the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, and revealed that he is making a longshot bid for the powerful Appropriations Committee. "It's something I need to talk about. I don't necessarily think I'm going to get it, but I want people to know I'm not here to bide my time. I'm not here to not speak out and advocate for our district."
He said his victory over 12-year incumbent Rep. Gil Gutknecht, a Republican from Rochester, has gotten attention from veteran Democrats.
"They think this is a district that may be changing and you can be a voice for this movement that's coming," he said, referring to the practical, pragmatic politics he stressed in his campaign.