Left to right: Democratic candidate for U.S. House District 23 Jay Hulings, incumbent Rep. Will Hurd, R-Helotes, and house Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of California. 

SAN ANTONIO — Jay Hulings, who has built early momentum in the Democratic primary for Texas' most competitive congressional district, suggested Monday that U.S. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi should step aside for "new leadership."

"I think it's time for new leadership," Hulings, a former federal prosecutor, said in an interview. "It's been a long time, and I've got a lot of respect for the work that she's done — she's been very effective — but I think the time is right for a new face in the House representing us Democrats."

Hulings — who is seeking to challenge U.S. Rep. Will Hurd, R-Helotes, in 2018 — was responding to a question about efforts already underway by national Republicans to tie him to House Democratic leaders, including Pelosi. Hulings has received financial support from House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer — "I'm very grateful" for it, he said — but not from Pelosi.

"She hasn't asked," he said. "I haven't sought it."

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In the race for Texas' 23rd Congressional District, Hulings has established an early lead in fundraising and drawn notable support — not just from Hoyer but also from the Castro brothers and other influential Democrats. He is vying with three other Democrats to take on Hurd: Judy Canales, a former Obama appointee from Eagle Pass; Gina Ortiz Jones, a former Air Force intelligence officer from San Antonio; and Rick Treviño, a former teacher from San Antonio.

Jones — who has the support of former state Sens. Wendy Davis and Leticia Van de Putte, both 2014 statewide candidates — said in an interview Monday that she has "not spent a lot of time thinking about Nancy Pelosi" as she speaks with voters. She added that she would welcome Pelosi's support and that of anyone who has the best interests of the district at heart. 

In a statement responding to Hulings, Canales said the United States "desperately needs new leadership, and that's why I'm running for Congress." But she suggested that Hulings is "counting his chicks before they hatch," urging the candidates to keep their fire trained on Hurd and the House Republican tax reform bill that is currently making its way through Congress.

The bill was the topic of a rally that Hulings, Jones and Treviño attended here Monday afternoon outside Hurd's office on the north side of San Antonio.

Treviño, who unsuccessfully ran for San Antonio City Council earlier this year, said he has long maintained that Pelosi needs to go — especially after the losses Democrats suffered in the 2016 elections — but he emphasized the need to answer the question of who should replace her. Treviño suggested she should be succeeded by someone from the progressive wing of the party, such as U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison, D-Minn. 

In any case, Hulings would not be the only Texas Democrat vying for a job in Washington next year who believes Pelosi should call it quits. U.S. Rep. Beto O'Rourke, D-El Paso, supported Pelosi's leadership challenger last year, U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan of Ohio, and O'Rourke has said he does not want her help in his 2018 bid to unseat U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas.

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