September 12, 2023
Representative Nancy Pelosi of California—who served for decades as the Democratic Party’s House leader and was the first woman to become speaker—announced on Friday, September 8, that she would seek re-election in 2024, ending months of speculation about her political future, reports The New York Times.
“In light of the values of San Francisco, which we’ve always been proud to promote, I’ve made the decision to seek re-election,” Pelosi said on Friday at an event in her hometown focused on organized labor.
Since she stepped down from leadership last year after Democrats lost the House majority, many observers expected that Pelosi—whom, at 83, is the seventh-oldest member of the chamber—was headed for retirement. Some had been surprised to see her stay in Congress at all—a rare move for a former speaker—and speculated that she would not finish her term.
But colleagues said she has relished her lower profile as a rank-and-file member with emeritus status. In that new role, Pelosi offers advice on an as-needed basis to her party’s new leadership team, often sits in the back rows of the House floor gabbing with her closest friends and focuses her attention on San Francisco while quietly remaining a fund-raising powerhouse for Democrats.
“I’m emancipated now!” an ebullient Pelosi said in a recent interview with The Los Angeles Times.
Even after Pelosi made clear that she would stay on after giving up her leadership post, some Democrats assumed that she would leave Congress early, potentially clearing the way for her daughter Christine Pelosi—a party activist and a Democratic National Committee executive committee member—to run for her seat.
Pelosi’s decision to carry on with her 36-year career in the House comes at a moment of renewed scrutiny on the advanced age and health status of the country’s leading public servants—including President Biden, 80, and Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, 81, the longtime Republican leader—and questions about whether they have overstayed their time in power. Pelosi managed to somewhat insulate herself from those critiques when she decided last year to step down from leadership, essentially giving herself a demotion.
Senator Dianne Feinstein, another California Democrat who at 90 is the oldest member of Congress, plans to retire after her term ends next year. But she is facing calls to step down sooner amid a precipitous health decline that has raised questions about her ability to do her job. Pelosi recently attributed those calls to sexism.
A major factor in Pelosi’s decision to not only finish her term but to seek another, according to people close to her, was the health of her husband, Paul Pelosi, who was brutally beaten with a hammer at the couple’s home in San Francisco last year by an assailant who later said he had been targeting the speaker. With her husband on a solid path to recovery, allies said, Pelosi did not feel it was necessary to step away from a job she loved.
“Nancy Pelosi has always been untraditional,” said Stacy Kerr, who for a decade served as a senior aide to Pelosi. “She’s done things her own way her whole career, driven by the needs of her district and the country. We shouldn’t expect that she won’t continue to be a trailblazer now.”
Still, Pelosi— famous for keeping her own counsel—had not shared her plans with anyone. People close to her said on Friday that she had ultimately decided to run again because she also viewed it as an urgent priority to re-elect Biden and help Representative Hakeem Jeffries of New York, the minority leader, become the next House speaker.
Pelosi is still her party’s most prolific fund-raiser in Congress, a political skill that could be determinative in helping Democrats win back the House majority next year.
The National Republican Congressional Committee quickly tried to frame her decision to stay on as a sign of Jeffries’s weakness.
“The babysitter agreed to stay late!” the group’s press secretary, Will Reinert, said in a statement, noting that House Democrats still relied on Pelosi as the main engine of their fund-raising machine.
In an online post, Pelosi characterized her decision to run again as one driven by local and global concerns. “Now, more than ever, our city needs us to advance San Francisco values and further our recovery,” Pelosi said in announcing her plans. “Our country needs America to show the world that our flag is still there, with liberty and justice for all.”
Research contact: @nytimes