SAN FRANCISCO — Nancy Pelosi has made two very completely different, nearly irreconcilable statements about her political future.
In 2018, she pledged that 2022 can be her final 12 months as House Democratic chief, acceding to a term limit to quell an rebellion and safe a second stint as speaker. In January, she introduced she was operating for an additional two-year time period within the House.
With the House’s passage of the sweeping measure to handle local weather change and prescription drug costs on Friday — “a glorious day for us,” Ms. Pelosi beamed — and her China-defying journey to Taiwan serving as a diplomatic profession capstone, the query of what comes subsequent for Ms. Pelosi is simply intensifying.
Will she press to remain on as speaker if Democrats by some means maintain the House? Or, if Republicans take management, will she merely retire?
She might break her 2018 pledge and search to stay Democratic chief within the minority. Those near her describe just one possibility as inconceivable: a demotion to the backbench.
Ms. Pelosi, 82, has averted discussing her plans previous November and declined to be interviewed. A spokesman, Drew Hammill, issued the identical, terse assertion he has provided beforehand: “The speaker is not on a shift,” he mentioned. “She’s on a mission.”
Some clues to Ms. Pelosi’s future could also be discovered nearer to her dwelling in San Francisco — the place the tantalizing risk of the town’s first open congressional seat for the reason that fall of the Soviet Union has turn into the political speak of the city.
Would-be candidates, labor leaders, political strategists, donors and activists are already busily plotting what a race to succeed her would appear to be — albeit nearly fully in secret, to keep away from antagonizing Ms. Pelosi, who has made plain she needs to retire on her personal phrases.
“This is very much the campaign that shall not be named,” Dan Newman, a San Francisco-based Democratic operative, mentioned of the early jostling. “Nancy Pelosi is a force of nature, and no one wants to appear in any way disrespectful or dismissive.”
In interviews, greater than a dozen officers mentioned native Democrats have been getting ready for the chance that Ms. Pelosi might resign relatively than keep and hand the gavel to a Republican. That would set off a snap particular election in San Francisco, held inside 150 days — a dash for what, given the town’s politics, might quantity to a de facto lifetime appointment to Congress.
Adding to the intrigue: One potential successor is Ms. Pelosi’s daughter Christine Pelosi, a celebration activist and Democratic National Committee govt committee member who serves as an adviser to her mom, has written a guide about her and sometimes accompanies her to native union halls, speeches and parades. She slings her opinions on-line from a Twitter deal with, @sfpelosi, that would at a look be confused for one her mom would possibly use.
Wrapped up within the elder Ms. Pelosi’s determination and its timing are intertwined questions of energy, legacy and dynasty, and the way absolutely a barrier-breaking, notoriously aggressive public determine can stage-manage her exit.
There can be Washington politics: Ms. Pelosi known as herself “a bridge to the next generation of leaders” 4 years in the past, signaling her need that her departure coincide with these of her fellow-octogenarian lieutenants, Representatives Steny Hoyer, 83, and James Clyburn, 82. Neither has agreed.
In San Francisco, equally, the Pelosi title stays beloved, however there isn’t any assure of a managed succession.
A well-liked state senator, Scott Wiener, whose district overlaps Ms. Pelosi’s, is extensively seen as laying the groundwork for a marketing campaign. Mr. Wiener spent practically $2.5 million on his re-election and has been wooing supporters underneath the guise of excellent politics, although his ambitions to turn into San Francisco’s first overtly homosexual congressman are an open secret.
In an interview at a Brazilian pastry store, the 6-foot-7-inch Mr. Wiener refused even to broach the opportunity of a post-Pelosi period. “The longer she stays, the better for our country,” he mentioned. “I’m on Team Nancy.”
It was a remark befitting what Tony Winnicker, a longtime native Democratic strategist, known as “the first rule of wanting to run for Nancy Pelosi’s seat.”
“You never talk about it in a way that suggests Nancy will ever leave,” he mentioned.
Christine Pelosi, too, declined to remark.
As former chair of the ladies’s caucus of the state Democratic Party, the youthful Ms. Pelosi, 56, has been outspoken in combating sexual harassment.
Increasingly, she and Mr. Wiener, 52, are crisscrossing at native occasions, like a Pride breakfast the place he and the elder Ms. Pelosi each delivered speeches. “This has been a family affair for us for more than 30 years,” Nancy Pelosi mentioned, recognizing her daughter’s presence. (She additionally acknowledged Mr. Wiener.)
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Just as she has in Washington, the place she has outlasted a era of potential male successors — Rahm Emanuel, Chris Van Hollen and Joseph Crowley amongst them — Ms. Pelosi has stored an array of bold native officers on ice since 1987.
Willie Brown, the previous San Francisco mayor, mentioned that these planning House campaigns have been good to get began, even when considerably untimely. In an interview over lunch, he speculated that Ms. Pelosi would show a robust ally to her daughter, finally.
“If her mother is not around, Christine would be a formidable candidate,” Mr. Brown mentioned. “Because her mother would make her a formidable candidate.”
Few count on the speaker to disclose her intentions till November. Doing so any sooner might scale back her sway over the razor-thin House Democratic majority, to not point out her energy as a fund-raiser. She hosts a significant donor retreat in Napa subsequent weekend, together with a cocktail reception at her dwelling.
Whenever her House seat opens up, it will likely be an opportunity to not simply succeed the primary feminine speaker in United States historical past however to additionally signify a metropolis that has lengthy punched above its weight in nationwide politics, regardless of a inhabitants smaller than that of Columbus, Ohio.
Today, the No. 2 and No. 3 officers within the presidential line of succession — Vice President Kamala Harris, as soon as the town’s district lawyer, and Ms. Pelosi — each reduce their enamel politically in San Francisco. Democrats who emerge within the metropolis’s notoriously cutthroat liberal politics, from Gov. Gavin Newsom to Senator Dianne Feinstein to Ms. Pelosi, have discovered methods to placate the oft-warring factions of the Democratic Party.
“The fight gives you muscle,” mentioned Debra Walker, an artist and activist who has served because the president of the Harvey Milk L.G.B.T.Q. Democratic Club. Ms. Walker was appointed in June to the San Francisco Police Commission, as Mayor London Breed sought to defuse a blowup between the police division and the town’s annual Pride Parade organizers, who had sought to bar officers from marching in uniform.
Even amongst Ms. Pelosi’s buddies and allies, some have puzzled if Christine Pelosi, who wrote a book on campaigning however has by no means run for workplace herself, is sufficiently ready.
“I would rather see Christine start at a state level rather than Congress,” mentioned Joe Cotchett, a significant Democratic donor and household good friend.
Mr. Cotchett anticipated Nancy Pelosi to assist her daughter, up to some extent. “Do I think that Nancy will push her? Emotionally, she’s her daughter,” he mentioned. “But I don’t think Nancy is the type of person who would step in and attempt to block anyone from running.”
If the elder Ms. Pelosi is understood for her deft relationship administration, that has been much less true for Christine, whose years as an activist have included urgent for D.N.C. resolutions — attempting to ban company contributions, demanding a 2020 local weather debate — typically to the exasperation of occasion officers.
Her final title has insulated her from public criticism, however hidden frustrations have mounted, based on a half dozen officers on each coasts.
She antagonized the Newsom crew, for example, when she prompt through the 2021 recall that Mr. Newsom should step down if he seemed prone to lose. Publicly, she sought to undercut Mr. Newsom’s central strategy of labeling the recall as a Republican energy seize. Privately, she was straight texting Mr. Newsom to complain about his ways, based on two folks briefed on the messages she despatched.
Mr. Newsom defeated the recall in a landslide.
In a metropolis the place politics is commonly private and fractious, Mr. Wiener has accrued critics, too.
“People talk about it all the time,” Mike Casey, president of the San Francisco Labor Council, mentioned of the race to succeed Ms. Pelosi. “But mostly, like, who don’t we want. Like Scott Wiener has really gotten on the trades’ and a number of our bad side.”
And whereas Mr. Wiener and Ms. Pelosi are progressives by any nationwide metric, neither would essentially fulfill the town’s ideological purists, a wing that would discipline a candidate, too. “I haven’t ruled it out,” mentioned Jane Kim, a 45-year-old former supervisor and govt director of the California Working Families Party.
Jen Snyder, a San Francisco-based strategist who works with progressives, might summon little enthusiasm for a Pelosi-Wiener contest.
“It will be Mothra versus Godzilla,” Ms. Snyder mentioned. “I guess I will be on the sidelines eating popcorn.”
Another doable candidate is Ms. Breed, the primary Black girl to function mayor. She has indicated she is bored with a congressional run, based on folks near her.
“I can tell you as a friend of hers, she’s not,” mentioned Lee Houskeeper, a neighborhood public-relations veteran, who joined Mr. Brown for the lunch interview.
“I can tell you as a friend of hers, she better be,” Mr. Brown interjected.
Clint Reilly, who managed Ms. Pelosi’s 1987 congressional marketing campaign and has recognized her household since, declined at first to speak. “Leave me alone!” he insisted. “They won’t be happy with anything I say!”
But Mr. Reilly, an investor who now owns The San Francisco Examiner, agreed to speak, together with about how Ms. Pelosi received that first race, defeating a homosexual rival, Harry Britt, who ran to her left, in a multicandidate scrum.
Her prophetic slogan: “A voice that will be heard.”
If Democrats lose in November, Mr. Reilly mentioned, “most people would call it at that time.” But not essentially Ms. Pelosi. “She loves the game,” he mentioned. “She hates to lose.”
“How it ends?” he mused. “I don’t think even she knows the answer.”