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Why this freshman legislator is supporting Nancy Pelosi | Opinion

Nancy Pelosi is the experienced and decent leader we need.

Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi speaks at a campaign kick-off event hosted by Representative-elect Madeleine Dean.
Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi speaks at a campaign kick-off event hosted by Representative-elect Madeleine Dean.Read moreSally Chen

Recently, 16 of my soon-to-be colleagues penned a letter suggesting that Democrats, in the wake of our historic midterm victory, needed to hear a call for change: a change of leadership and a new speaker.

I agree the midterms were a call for change. But I disagree they were in any way a vote against Nancy Pelosi for speaker.

This month's election results were a referendum on this administration and a majority party with misguided priorities. The midterms were a call for decency and effective leadership – leadership that Pelosi has embodied for years.

As I crisscrossed Montgomery and Berks Counties this year, whether knocking on doors or meeting voters in town halls, two issues came up time and again. The first was clear: Constituents urgently want access to quality, affordable health care and the protection and strengthening of the Affordable Care Act.

Truth is, there would be no Obamacare to protect without Pelosi. Just ask President Obama.

Montgomery County had the highest turnout percentage among registered voters in all of Pennsylvania. It was those engaged voters throughout my district who impressed upon me a pressing second issue.

One rainy primary day, knocking on doors in Cheltenham, my son Pat and daughter-in-law Stephanie and I ran into a man walking his dog. I offered him my pitch for why I was running, the things I care about. And as I like to do, I asked him what he cared most about.

He paused for a moment and said a single word: decency. He did not need to say more.

I heard that call for decency many times while campaigning and could not agree more.

This is a crucial and turbulent time. We must transform the energy that propelled 36 new women Democrats to Congress this November into practical action on behalf of America's middle class this January. And we need Pelosi's help to do just that. There would be no blue wave without her leadership. Just ask the countless Democrats – women and men and people of all colors, the changing faces of Congress – who Pelosi recruited, mentored, and advocated for. We need her experience and leadership to check the erratic, dangerous decisions of the executive branch, and its complicit House and Senate Republicans.

Throughout my run, Pelosi reminded us not to agonize but to organize. During the cycle, she worked tirelessly to promote the kitchen table issues that are important to her and the Americans who believed in us on Nov. 6. Whether it was launching a canvass, hosting a fundraiser, or offering advice to candidates, Pelosi enthusiastically and tirelessly lent her hand.

Given her effectiveness, it should come as no surprise that Pelosi became a favorite target for the right. Their attacks didn't work. Democrats – propelled by the very diversity that already makes America great – took back the House and changed the face of Congress.

The results speak for themselves. Just last week, we learned that Democrats lead the popular vote in the House by 8.9 million votes — the largest margin in United States history.

Republicans have tried to gut Title X family planning services and restrict the access of millions of women to contraception, and have made more than 70 attempts to repeal the Affordable Care Act. In the courts, Republicans continue to wage a legal battle to eliminate protections for people with preexisting conditions, including pregnancy.

These attacks will continue. To survive them, we'll need to stand firm in the truth and our light.

These past two weeks have been extraordinary for our family. Two weeks ago, I was elected to Congress; one week ago, our son Harry was married to Juliet in Cape May, N.J. An important image for their new life together was the Cape May lighthouse.

A lighthouse is not slapped up at the last minute. It stands tall and strong over time, lighting the way through fair weather and punishing storms.

It seems that is what we need now: a steadfast, battle-tested leader to stand up for ideals that have weathered many storms, ideals Americans voted for this month.

It is my honor to support the most proven leader, in this case, a proven woman, for speaker of the house. It will be my honor to vote for Nancy Pelosi in January and to serve with her and so many other representatives interested in hard work and decency.

Madeleine Dean is congresswoman-elect for Pennsylvania's Fourth District.