Nancy Patricia D’Alesandro Pelosi (pron.: //; born March 26, 1940) is the Minority Leader of the United States House of Representatives and served as the 60th Speaker of the United States House of Representatives from 2007 to 2011. She was the first woman to hold the office and to date is the highest-ranking female politician in American history.
A member of the Democratic Party, Pelosi represents California’s 12th congressional district, which consists of four-fifths of the city and county of San Francisco. The district was numbered as the 5th during Pelosi’s first three terms in the House, and as the 8th from 1993 to 2013. She served as the House Minority Whip from 2002 to 2003, and was House Minority Leader from 2003 to 2007, holding the post during the 108th and 109th Congresses. Pelosi is the first woman, the first Californian and first Italian-American to lead a major party in Congress. After the Democrats took control of the House in 2007 and increased their majority in 2009, Pelosi was elected Speaker of the House for the 110th and 111th Congresses.
On November 17, 2010, Pelosi was elected as the Democratic Leader by House Democrats and therefore the Minority Leader in the Republican-controlled House for the 112th Congress.
Early life, education, and early career
Pelosi is Italian-American and was born Nancy Patricia D’Alesandro in Baltimore, Maryland, the youngest of six children of Annunciata M. “Nancy” (née Lombardi) and Thomas D’Alesandro, Jr., who was a Democratic party U.S. Congressman from Maryland and a Mayor of Baltimore. Pelosi’s brother, Thomas D’Alesandro III, also a Democrat, was mayor of Baltimore from 1967 to 1971, when he declined to run for a second term.
Pelosi was involved with politics from an early age. In her outgoing remarks as the 60th Speaker of the House, Pelosi noted that she had been present at John F. Kennedy’s inaugural address as President in January 1961. She graduated from the Institute of Notre Dame, a Catholic all-girls high school in Baltimore, and from Trinity College (now Trinity Washington University) in Washington, D.C., in 1962 with a B.A. in political science. Pelosi interned for Senator Daniel Brewster (D-Maryland) alongside future House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer. She met Paul Frank Pelosi (b. April 15, 1940, in San Francisco) while she was attending Trinity College. They married in Baltimore at the Cathedral of Mary Our Queen on September 7, 1963. After the couple married, they moved to New York, and then to San Francisco in 1969, where Mr. Pelosi’s brother, Ronald Pelosi, was a member of the City and County of San Francisco‘s Board of Supervisors.
After moving to San Francisco, Pelosi worked her way up in Democratic politics. She became a friend of one of the leaders of the California Democratic Party, 5th District Congressman Phillip Burton.
In 1976, Pelosi was elected as a Democratic National Committee member from California, a position she would hold until 1996. She was elected as party chair for Northern California on January 30, 1977, and for the California Democratic Party, which she held from 1981 until 1983.
Pelosi was appointed Finance Chair of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, the campaign arm of the U.S. Senate Democrats, in 1985. That same year, she ran to succeed Chuck Manatt as chair of the Democratic National Committee, but lost to then-DNC Treasurer Paul G. Kirk. Pelosi left her post as DSCC finance chair in 1986.
Phillip Burton died in 1983 and was succeeded by his wife, Sala. In late 1986, Sala became ill with cancer and decided not to run for reelection in 1988. She picked Pelosi as her designated successor, guaranteeing her the support of the Burtons’ contacts. Sala died on February 1, 1987, just a month after being sworn in for a second full term. Pelosi won the special election to succeed her, narrowly defeating San Francisco Supervisor Harry Britt on April 7, 1987, then easily defeating Republican candidate Harriet Ross on June 2, 1987; Pelosi took office a week later.
Pelosi represents one of the safest Democratic districts in the country. Democrats have held the seat since 1949 and Republicans, who currently make up only 13 percent of registered voters in the district, have not made a serious bid for the seat since the early 1960s. She won the seat in her own right in 1988 and has been reelected 10 more times with no substantive opposition, winning by an average of 80 percent of the vote. She has not participated in candidates’ debates since her 1987 race against Harriet Ross. The strongest challenge Pelosi has faced was in 2008 when anti-war activist Cindy Sheehan polled 16% and Pelosi won with 72%.
She has the distinction of contributing the most among members of Congress to other congressional campaigns because she is in a safe district and does not need the campaign funds.
In the House, she served on the Appropriations and Intelligence Committees, and was the ranking Democrat on the Intelligence Committee until her election as Minority Leader.
In 2001, Pelosi was elected the House Minority Whip, second-in-command to Minority Leader Dick Gephardt of Missouri. She was the first woman in U.S. history to hold that post.
In 2002, after Gephardt resigned as minority leader to seek the Democratic nomination in the 2004 presidential election, Pelosi was elected to replace him, becoming the first woman to lead a major party in the House.
Speaker of the House
On November 16, 2006, Pelosi was unanimously chosen by her caucus as the Democratic candidate for Speaker, effectively making her Speaker-elect. While the Speaker is elected by the full House membership, in modern practice the election is a formality, since the Speaker always comes from the majority party.
Pelosi supported her longtime friend John Murtha of Pennsylvania for the position of House Majority Leader, the second-ranking post in the House Democratic caucus. His competitor was House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer of Maryland, who had been Pelosi’s second-in-command since 2003. Pelosi and Hoyer had a somewhat frosty relationship dating back to 2001, when they ran against each other for minority whip. However, Hoyer was elected as House Majority Leader over Murtha by a margin of 149–86 within the caucus.
On January 3, Pelosi defeated Republican John Boehner of Ohio with 233 votes compared to his 202 votes in the election for Speaker of the House. She was nominated by Rahm Emanuel of Illinois, the incoming chairman of the House Democratic Caucus, and sworn in by her longtime friend John Dingell of Michigan as the Dean of the House of Representatives traditionally does.