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House Democrats consider new Minority Leader after bruising election

Democratic minority leader Nancy Pelosi voted against the amendment.
Democratic minority leader Nancy Pelosi voted against the amendment.
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Democrats in the House sustained heavy losses this election season. Now, those who remain face a new reality. This is especially true for House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi.

The 76-year-old Congresswoman was easily re-elected to serve a 16th term representing San Francisco, but she's now being challenged as her party's leader in the House. The Democrats will vote on their leadership when they return after Thanksgiving.

For a look at Pelosi's chances of retaining her position, Take Two spoke to Scott Shafer, senior California politics and government editor for KQED.


When Nancy Pelosi first became Speaker of the House a decade ago, she broke a lot of records at the time; she was the first woman, the first Californian, and the first Italian-American to hold the Speakership. Remind us of some of the highlights of her career since that time.

She has been someone who has worked her way up very assiduously, and she's done it largely through personal relationships.

There's sort of an outside, and inside game in politics and Nancy Pelosi plays the inside game extremely well. She's somebody who her caucus likes personally. She's somebody who remembers birthdays and divorces and death dates — all kinds of things that matter to people — with little notes. And those kinds of relationships have served her well.

In terms of what she's gotten done, you have to look at things like funding for AIDS, affordable housing money, defending high-speed rail and sanctuary cities from attacks by Republicans: things we're going to certainly see in the coming session.

Some Democrats might see it differently. You just highlighted there that she's great at playing the inside game, but some are saying that this might be a little bit complicated as this goes into a secret ballot election that will be held on November 30th. Why would some Democrats not be feeling 100 percent about her continued leadership?

Well, first of all, you have to look to the last election where the Democrats were hoping — I think they knew getting 30 seats was a real stretch — but the fact that they only picked up six was a big disappointment. You look at the bigger election — the presidential election — and where the Democrats fell short with working class and rural whites. If you're going to look for somebody who can reach out to those people, Nancy Pelosi might not be the best person.

She comes from a very wealthy, mostly liberal district in San Francisco. She is well-off, so Democrats who are worried about going forward might look at someone like Tim Ryan from Youngstown, Ohio. He's a 43-year-old guy who comes from a union family. They might see someone like that as better able to reach out to the people that they didn't get in this last election cycle.

Press the blue play button above to hear the full interview.

(Questions and answers have been edited for clarity and brevity.)