Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Pelosi is running for reelection but is silent on a bid to retain her leadership post

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., has launched her campaign for reelection to her San Francisco-based congressional seat. She has not signaled plans yet about whether she will seek another term as the House Democratic leader.
Eric Lee
Pool/Getty Images
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., has launched her campaign for reelection to her San Francisco-based congressional seat. She has not signaled plans yet about whether she will seek another term as the House Democratic leader.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., confirmed in a video posted Tuesday that she is running for reelection for her San Francisco-based district, but she didn't address whether she plans to seek another term as the top House Democratic leader.

Pelosi, 81, made history when she took the gavel as the first female speaker of the House in 2007.

She led the effort to enact the Affordable Care Act in 2009 and 2010, the signature legislative accomplishment of then-President Barack Obama, and her most lasting legacy as speaker. The backlash to the new health care law helped fuel a massive midterm loss in 2010, with Republicans sweeping into control of the House. But Pelosi touted the law's growing popularity in the 2018 midterms, and vowed to protect the law from GOP vows to "repeal and replace" it.

When Democrats retook the majority in 2019, Pelosi pledged that she would limit herself to two additional terms as speaker. She became the second person to hold the gavel twice as speaker in 60 years. Her pitch at the time was she would serve as a "bridge to the future." She proposed rules to bring in younger members to leadership positions on committees and on her leadership team.

Pelosi was reelected to her fourth term as speaker in 2020, despite her party having larger-than-expected losses in that year's elections.

Even some of the Democrats who argued the party needed to look for new House leadership a couple of years ago now laud Pelosi as an experienced and pragmatic legislator and political tactician. She gained widespread praise for her interactions with former President Donald Trump that often went viral, and President Biden gives her credit for shepherding his agenda through a tightly divided chamber.

Sponsor Message

While there is some talk about who may succeed her if she decides not to serve out another term in the House, or run for her top leadership post, no one is openly challenging her. In recent cycles Pelosi has held off announcing her personal political plans until shortly after the election results are clear in November and the Democratic caucus begins organizing for the new session of Congress.

The House Democratic Caucus never formalized rules to limit leadership terms for Pelosi or other top leaders or committee chairs — some of whom, like Pelosi, are in their 80s. For her part, the speaker regularly dismisses questions about her political future, stressing she is focused on an unfinished legislative agenda.

"The Speaker is not on a shift, she's on a mission," Pelosi's spokesman Drew Hammill told NPR, reiterating a familiar refrain on her approach to the job.

Most political analysts, and many Democrats on Capitol Hill, admit the party's prospects for keeping their slim House majority in 2023 are low.

Historically the party in power loses seats in midterm elections and Biden's low approval ratings and the fallout from redistricting efforts across the country also add to a daunting political environment for Democratic incumbents and challengers this cycle.

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., has predicted his party will win far more than the net five seats the GOP needs to flip control of the House. He frequently refers to Pelosi as a "lame duck speaker."

In Tuesday's announcement Pelosi explained her driving reason behind her career in public service — working on issues that impact children. "As you hear me say, when you are in the arena you have to be able to take a punch or throw a punch, for the children."

Pelosi accepted the gavel breaking what she called "the marble ceiling" in 2007 surrounded by young children in the House chamber.

The California Democrat cited legislation passed to combat the coronavirus and building infrastructure, but she added, "While we have made progress, much more needs to be done to improve people's lives." The speaker mentioned "assaults on the truth" and the attack on the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, and added, "This election is crucial. Nothing less is at stake than the future of our democracy."

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit

Deirdre Walsh is the congress editor for NPR's Washington Desk.