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'Urgent for Our Democracy': Pelosi Announces 2024 Reelection Bid, as Democrats Try to Win Back House

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A person in a bright yellow sport coat speaks in an outdoor setting as a group of people holding microphones listen.
California Democratic Rep. Nancy Pelosi, the former House speaker, talks to reporters in San Francisco on Aug. 2, 2023, during an event celebrating the 150th anniversary of the city's first cable car. (Juliana Yamada/KQED)

Updated 5 p.m. Friday

Former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Friday morning said she will run for another 2-year congressional term in 2024, ending months of speculation about her political future.

Pelosi, 83, made the announcement Friday morning in front of labor leaders in her San Francisco district, before posting a message on the social media platform X (formerly known as Twitter).

“Now more than ever our City needs us to advance San Francisco values and further our recovery. Our country needs America to show the world that our flag is still there, with liberty and justice for ALL,” she said on X. “That is why I am running for reelection — and respectfully ask for your vote.”

In a Friday afternoon interview, Pelosi told MSNBC she wants to stay in Congress in large part to help address some of San Francisco’s most pressing issues — including the fentanyl crisis, homelessness, housing shortages and a struggling downtown that has been slow to recover from the pandemic.

“The needs that our city [has] right now really call for me to stay another term,” she said. “We are a resilient city. We’ve had AIDS, we’ve had earthquakes, of course we’ve all had the pandemic. We intend to come out of this, resilient city that we are, even better.”

But in the interview, Pelosi also stressed that “our democracy is at risk,” and reiterated her staunch belief that the U.S. must continue to support Ukraine in its war against Russia.

“I am motivated to do everything I can to win this election,” she added. “I think it’s urgent for our democracy, for our relationships worldwide, and more importantly for every kitchen table discussion in our country about America’s working families, to offset what the Republicans are trying to do.”

Pelosi’s announcement will delay the aspirations of several rising San Francisco politicians who had hoped to run for her seat, including state Sen. Scott Wiener and Pelosi’s daughter, Christine Pelosi.

In a statement, though, Wiener praised Pelosi and said he will run for reelection to the state Senate next year.

“Speaker Emerita Pelosi is one of the most talented and transformational leaders of our lifetime, and it’s a good thing for San Francisco and the nation that she will continue to serve our community,” Wiener said.

“Right now, I’m focused like a laser on the end of our legislative session in Sacramento,” Wiener added, pointing to several housing bills he’s backing, and a measure to decriminalize psychedelics. “I look forward to seeking reelection to the Senate next year and continuing this critical work.”

Pelosi was first elected to Congress in 1987, and rose to become the first and — to date — only female speaker of the House, in 2007, a post she held until 2011, when Republicans regained control. After a prolonged stint as House minority leader, Pelosi reclaimed the speaker’s gavel in 2019, promising to hand over the reins in four years. She stepped down from the leadership post after her party narrowly lost the House in last year’s midterm election, but continued to represent her San Francisco district in Congress.

Pelosi is known as a masterful legislator and fundraiser who held together an often fractured caucus and pushed through major Democratic priorities including the Affordable Care Act, her crowning legislative achievement. In her last stint as speaker, she guided her party through an exceedingly turbulent period that included two impeachments of former President Donald Trump and the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol.

Pelosi has often been vilified by Republicans, who commonly portray her as a far-left liberal, and have unflatteringly plastered her image on hundreds of campaign ads over the years.

Born into a prominent political family in Baltimore, Pelosi, who describes herself as a “devout Catholic,” remained out of the political limelight during her early professional life, working for years behind the scenes as a Democratic Party activist and fundraiser, while raising her five children in San Francisco.

But in 1987, after she was tapped by the ailing San Francisco Rep. Sala Burton to replace her, Pelosi beat out a crowded field in a special election, becoming one of just over 20 women in the House. In Washington, Pelosi quickly became an outspoken proponent for AIDS funding and, eventually, a ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee.

Pelosi’s decision to run once again comes just over a year before the 2024 presidential election, when her party hopes to win back control of the House from Republicans, who now hold a slim, 10-member majority. Her presence in the race is almost certain to boost Democratic fundraising efforts.

More on Nancy Pelosi

But as an octogenarian, she’s part of a generation of aging leaders that are increasingly being pressured to step aside. Recent polls show that many voters believe President Joe Biden, 80, is too old to run again, while California Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein, 90, and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, 81, of Kentucky, have both made headlines in recent months after experiencing serious health issues.

Still, Pelosi enjoys strong support in her hometown of San Francisco, where she easily won reelection in 2022, with nearly 84% of the vote.

And some members of the next generation of Democrats said they’re happy to see her stay in the game. Lateefah Simon, who is running to represent the East Bay in Congress — to fill the seat vacated by longtime Rep. Barbara Lee — said it would be an honor to serve alongside Pelosi, who she considers a mentor.

“We need her right now. We need that voracious leadership,” Simon said on Friday.

But there is also disappointment among some Democrats. Aimee Allison, who works to elect women of color to office through her organization She the People, noted the dilemma for Democrats who aim to uplift a new generation of political leaders but fear doing anything that would boost Trump’s chances of reclaiming the White House.

“Nancy Pelosi’s decision really reflects that the Democrats are not taking anything for granted. They want to shore up their seats. They want to support existing leadership,” Allison said. “For those of us who want to see a new generation of leaders, it’s hard. But 2024 might not be the year to try some things out.”

Pelosi has also said that her desire to stay in public life a bit longer was further reinforced by last year’s attack on her husband, Paul Pelosi, in their Pacific Heights home. The alleged assailant, who espoused far-right conspiracy theories online, told authorities he was looking for Nancy Pelosi when he broke into the house and hit her husband in the head with a hammer, fracturing his skull.

“If anything it made me think about staying,” Pelosi told reporters less than a month after the incident, when asked if it impelled her to step away from politics. “No, it had the opposite effect,” she said. “I couldn’t give them that satisfaction.”

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