remain Dem leader
by Lisa Keen and Matthew S. Bajko
Representative Nancy Pelosi announced Wednesday that she will stay on as minority leader for the coming new session of Congress.
"I have made the decision to submit my name to my colleagues to once again serve as the House Democratic leader," Pelosi said at a news conference November 14.
The announcement followed a few days of speculation in the media that Pelosi, a San Francisco Democrat, might not seek the position as leader of the Democratic Caucus in the House. Those rumors began last December after her daughter told a political blogger that her mother "would retire right now if the donors she has didn't want her to stay so badly." Alexandra Pelosi later told other reporters that she had never discussed the issue specifically with her mother and a Pelosi spokesman said the claim that Pelosi was ready to retire was "untrue."
But the rumor apparently fed a news-hungry post-election media, as did Pelosi herself, when she told reporters Tuesday that she would reveal her decision about seeking the minority leader position again after meeting with the Democratic Caucus Wednesday morning. The fact that the Democrats failed to retake the House in last week's elections, for the second consecutive cycle, also fueled speculation that she would step down from leadership and possibly retire in two years. The Democrats gained only seven seats; they needed 25 to take control of the House.
"I thought maybe I would talk to my own caucus before I share that information with you," Pelosi, 72, told reporters in a press conference Tuesday. Since most political observers considered Pelosi a shoo-in for the leadership job if she wanted it, her decision to "talk to my own caucus" hinted she might have some news.
Pelosi is a strong supporter of LGBT civil rights and HIV/AIDS issues. The Human Rights Campaign's legislative scorecard gave Pelosi a perfect score of 100 for the 112th Congress, which ends next month.
"Leader Pelosi has been a tremendous advocate for our community – from her work in passing the hate crimes law to repealing 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' to funding for HIV/AIDS," said Michael Cole-Schwartz, a spokesman for HRC. "Her continued leadership will mean that the cares and concerns of all LGBT people will remain a priority for her caucus and we look forward to working with her for years to come."
Future musical chairs?
Should Pelosi opt not to run for re-election in 2014, it is widely expected that gay state Senator Mark Leno (D-San Francisco) would jump into the race to replace her. Leno just won re-election to his Senate seat and will be termed out of the state Legislature in 2016.
Asked by the Bay Area Reporter on election night about the possibility of his running for Congress if Pelosi does retire in two years, Leno simply smiled and said that he "appreciated the question" and that it is "too early for having that conversation."
He praised Pelosi's leadership in the House and said that he and many others hope she "will be there quite a while."
Leno was more forthcoming about his political aspirations at a San Francisco fundraiser in September for Mark Takano, a gay man who won a congressional seat in Riverside County to become the first out member of California's House delegation. He joked to the small crowd who had gathered at a Noe Valley home to support Takano that, "In a perfect world this would be a fundraiser for me."
As it is rare for there to be an open House seat in the Bay Area, Pelosi's eventual departure is sure to draw a number of local politicians into the race to succeed her. Another possibility is seeing former Pelosi aide Michael Yaki, who served on the Board of Supervisors, run for his old boss's seat.
Asked about his intentions by the B.A.R. this week, Yaki dodged the question.
Gay state Assemblyman Tom Ammiano (D-San Francisco) would be another potential candidate, as he is termed out of office in 2014. Or Ammiano could opt to sit the race out, and should Leno win, then he would be able to run for his Senate seat in the special election to fill the vacancy.
A Pelosi retirement could have a domino effect on several races for down ticket offices on the local ballot.
Talk is already centering on seeing gay District 8 Supervisor Scott Wiener also run for Leno's Senate seat.
An Ammiano versus Wiener race would serve as a rematch of sorts of the 2008 Senate race when the moderate Leno knocked out the more progressive lesbian state Senator Carole Migden. The moderate Wiener is a protege of Leno's, while Ammiano is the highest-ranking progressive politician in the city.
Meanwhile gay District 9 Supervisor David Campos is widely expected to seek Ammiano's Assembly seat. With District 11 Supervisor John Avalos and District 3 Supervisor David Chiu termed out of office in 2016, as is Campos, they also could opt to seek either the Senate or Assembly seats.
A win by any of the supervisors would open up having a mayoral appointee fill their vacancies and likely lead to spirited contests for the seat in the next election.
Pelosi has served as a representative of the 8th Congressional District in San Francisco for 25 years and became the first woman to be elected minority leader in 2003. When Democrats took control of the House in 2007, she became the first woman speaker of the House, serving there for four years.