Former House speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) announced Friday that she will run for reelection in 2024 for her San Francisco-area House seat, ending speculation about her political future after she decided last year that she would step down as the leader of the House Democratic caucus.
Pelosi, 83, said she had been receiving calls from people who asked if she could stay in Congress.
“I have decided now that in light of the values of San Francisco, which we have always been proud to promote, I’ve made the decision to seek reelection,” Pelosi said during an event at a labor hall in San Francisco on Friday morning.
In a 30-minute telephone interview Friday, Pelosi said the decision to remain in Congress came down to two critical things: the needs of her district and her ability to continue using her high profile to boost Democrats, particularly financially, ahead of the 2024 elections.
“We have our local challenges, and now they are a little more significant,” she said.
Pelosi wants to focus on building a high-speed rail line along the coast from San Francisco to Southern California, saying it would reduce car traffic and emissions while allowing workers to live in lower-cost regions and commute to their jobs. San Francisco also needs more federal funding to help alleviate a crime and drug problem in some downtown areas, she said, an effort that could make the city safer while respecting the “civil liberties” of the homeless population.
While she still does not intend to seek committee assignments, Pelosi said running for reelection allows her to “amplify my role” in helping President Biden and House Democrats in next year’s elections.
As long as she’s actively campaigning, Pelosi can keep raising money for her own campaign account, which hauled in more than $2 million in the first six months of this year. In a very safe Democratic seat, she pours most of that into helping other campaigns, including at least $400,000 sent to the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.
Pelosi’s career has been marked by historic firsts: She was the first woman to serve as speaker of the House when she assumed the position in 2007. More than a decade later, she again assumed the speakership in 2019 after she helped usher in a large Democratic majority.
In November, Pelosi announced that she would not seek reelection as the House Democratic caucus’s top leader, saying in a speech on the House floor that it was time “for a new generation to lead the Democratic caucus that I so deeply respect.”
Pelosi, who does not sit on any legislative committees, is making history again by serving in the rank and file with no official perch of power. Since Sam Rayburn of Texas, who was first elected speaker in 1940, no Democratic speaker has returned to life in the rank and file and continued to serve more than a year after his or her tenure ended. Instead, Pelosi’s predecessors retired from Congress at the time they gave up the gavel or within months of bowing out as speaker.
Her decision to step down as the top House Democrat last November came weeks after a hammer-wielding assailant broke into Pelosi’s San Francisco home and attacked her husband. Paul Pelosi suffered a fractured skull and serious injuries to his right arm and hands, and the attack weighed heavily on Nancy Pelosi’s mind as she decided on her political future. She later said that the incident almost pushed her to want to stay in Democratic leadership but that she ultimately felt “balanced” about her decision to become a rank-and-file member again.
Paul Pelosi, also 83, has about “20 to 25 percent more to go” in his recovery from October’s attack, which left him with a “severe head injury,” she told The Post.
She hopes that by Christmas he will be about fully recovered. “He’s coming along fine,” she said, noting that “if he were going in the opposite direction” she might have opted not to stay in Congress.
Pelosi, who on Thursday celebrated her 60th wedding anniversary, announced her reelection campaign at a moment when she has emerged as a staunch defender of politicians serving well into their 80s.
She has a formal role in Biden’s campaign, and she continues to raise money for former attorney general Eric Holder’s group fighting to help redraw congressional districts.
“We need all the help we can get,” she said, explaining she believes that Democrats will win the majority and House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.) will become the first Black speaker. “I just can’t sit it out.”
Pelosi has accused critics of 90-year-old Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) of sexism for their calls for her resignation as her mental and physical condition has deteriorated in the last few years. In recent months, after a lengthy hospitalization following a case of shingles, Feinstein has been escorted around the Capitol and back home by one of Pelosi’s daughters. The two families bonded living on the same San Francisco street years ago.
Pelosi has also staunchly defended Biden, 80, as he readies his reelection bid for next year amid growing questions about his age. Pelosi said critics of octogenarians like herself and Biden and nonagenarians like Feinstein need to appreciate that the test is in the ability to do the job, not one’s age.
“We have wisdom. We have experience. That counts for something,” she said in the Friday interview.
Despite a diet that includes hot dogs and lots of chocolate, the ex-speaker said she remains very active and agile. “I have an enormous amount of energy. I don’t know if it’s the chocolate or the Italian heritage,” she joked.
In recent weeks, Republicans have faced similar questions after Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) had a pair of public moments this summer in which he froze up while speaking to reporters. McConnell, who suffered broken ribs and a severe concussion after falling in March, has tried to tamp down concerns about his health.
When she stepped out of leadership at the end of last year, Pelosi repeatedly said that she did not want to appear as the “mother-in-law in the kitchen” hovering over the new Democratic leaders. She took no legislative committee assignments and became a roving political ambassador for Democrats, still helping to raise money for candidates and liberal causes but without an official portfolio.
But Pelosi said repeatedly in interviews that she worried about her hometown’s clout, with Feinstein retiring next year and longtime senator Barbara Boxer (D), from just across the bay in Marin County, having retired six years ago.
During her event in San Francisco on Friday, Pelosi said that “because of the graciousness and generosity of our constituents here,” she has been able to “play a leading role nationally and globally.”
“I know the Congress very well. I know the country very well,” she said. “More importantly, I know this city very well. And that is why in light of all that is at stake, and that people have been calling me and saying, ‘Can you stay longer?’”
Pelosi acknowledged in December that she would be transitioning from a role that comes with “awesome power” to one with still “strong” if subtler influence, particularly on women who might want to run for office. She recalled how, when she arrived in Congress in 1987, there were only 23 women in the House out of 435 lawmakers.
“I want women to have confidence,” Pelosi said in December. “So sometimes when I act a little more, shall we say, like myself, it’s because I want them to know it’s okay to assert yourself, to have confidence in what you bring to the table and also to understand your uniqueness.”
A Pelosi victory in 2024 would seem all but assured. Since narrowly winning the nomination for her seat in a 1987 special election, Pelosi has easily won reelection every two years to one of the most liberal districts in the nation.
Under California’s all-in, jungle primary system instituted in 2012, she has faced several challengers to her left in recent primaries, but none has received even 15 percent of the vote. Should she win next year, Pelosi would be 86 at the end of her term in early January 2027.
Marianna Sotomayor contributed to this report.