Pelosi, Nancy

Pelosi, Nancy
▪ 2007

      After the Democrats gained a majority in the U.S. House of Representatives following the midterm elections in November 2006, U.S. Rep. Nancy Pelosi of California was unanimously elected speaker of the House of the 110th Congress; she became the first woman to hold the position. Pelosi, whose district covered most of the city of San Francisco, was often derided by critics who claimed that her “left coast,” left-wing politics put her out of touch with most of the country. Her rise to power was no fluke, however. She was a savvy, tough, and pragmatic politician with a talent for building and maintaining coalitions—a talent she had spent a lifetime honing.

      Nancy Patricia D'Alesandro was born on March 26, 1940, in Baltimore, Md., the only daughter, and the youngest of six children, of Thomas J. D'Alesandro, a politician and New Deal Democrat. She studied political science at Trinity College, Washington, D.C., receiving an A.B. in 1962. In Washington she met Georgetown student Paul Pelosi. They were married in 1963 and moved to New York. Five children and six years later, the family moved to San Francisco, where Pelosi worked as a volunteer Democratic organizer. Earning a reputation as a highly effective fund-raiser, she rose through the ranks, serving on the Democratic National Committee and serving as chair of both the California Democratic Party (1981–83) and the host committee for the 1984 Democratic national convention in San Francisco. Along the way, Pelosi befriended longtime U.S. Rep. Phil Burton. Burton died in 1983 and was succeeded by his wife, Sala, who, shortly before her death in 1987, urged Pelosi to run for the seat. She narrowly won a special election and was reelected in 1988 to a full term. Election victories came easily after that in her overwhelmingly Democratic district, which left Pelosi plenty of time to raise money for other candidates and further her own career on Capitol Hill.

      In 2002 she was elected to minority whip and—using what she referred to as her “mother of five” voice—began pushing for unity among the diverse factions within her party by embracing conservatives and moderates and keeping the liberal wing in check. Still, Pelosi held true to her own philosophy throughout her tenure, voting consistently in favour of such liberal causes as gun control and abortion rights while opposing welfare reform and casting votes against the Persian Gulf War and the 2003 U.S.-led invasion of Iraq. Her criticism of Pres. George W. Bush could be harsh; she once characterized him as an “incompetent leader.” In her new role as speaker of the House, Pelosi faced her first challenge when Democrats rejected her choice (John P. Murtha) and selected Steny H. Hoyer as their new majority leader.

Anthony G. Craine

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▪ American politician
née  Nancy Patricia D'Alesandro  
born March 26, 1940, Baltimore, Md., U.S.
 
 American politician who in 2007 became the first woman to serve as speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives (Representatives, House of).

      D'Alesandro, whose father was a politician and New Deal Democrat, studied political science at Trinity College in Washington, D.C., graduating with a bachelor's degree in 1962. The following year she married Paul Pelosi, and the couple moved to New York. Five children and six years later, the family settled in San Francisco, where Pelosi worked as a volunteer Democratic organizer. Earning a reputation as a highly effective fund-raiser, she rose through the ranks, serving on the Democratic National Committee and as chair of both the California Democratic Party (1981–83) and the host committee for the 1984 Democratic National Convention in San Francisco. Along the way, Pelosi befriended longtime U.S. Rep. Phil Burton. Burton died in 1983 and was succeeded by his wife, Sala, who, shortly before her death in 1987, urged Pelosi to run for the seat. She narrowly won a special election and was reelected in 1988 to a full term. Pelosi easily won subsequent elections in her overwhelmingly Democratic district.

      In 2002 Pelosi was elected minority whip and—using what she referred to as her “mother of five” voice—began pushing for unity among the diverse factions within her party by embracing conservatives and moderates. Still, Pelosi continued to vote consistently in favour of such liberal causes as gun control and abortion rights, opposed welfare reform, and cast a vote against the Iraq War. Her criticism of Pres. George W. Bush (Bush, George W.) could be harsh; she once characterized him as an “incompetent leader.” Her critics in turn claimed that her “left coast,” left-wing politics put her out of touch with most of the country.

      Following the midterm elections in November 2006, the Democrats gained a majority in the House of Representatives. On Jan. 4, 2007, Pelosi was elected speaker of the House of the 110th Congress.

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Universalium. 2010.

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