The Pelosi Nepotism Succession Question

Christine Pelosi (center) with her parents
Photo by Gilbert Carrasquillo/FilmMagic
Theodore Schleifer
February 8, 2022

Democrats haven’t lost the House yet, but San Francisco is already positioning for the likelihood that the city’s 81-year-old congresswoman, Nancy Pelosi, won’t finish her term if she’s forced to give up the Speaker’s gavel next year. Pelosi made some “news” last month when she announced that she is indeed running for reelection—duh—but the smart money says Republicans are very likely to take the majority, and the expectation is that Pelosi would then ultimately step down after getting her caucus organized for a new session of Congress. 

Both the progs and the mods, in San Francisco parlance, have been jockeying for this moment forever. If Pelosi steps down early next year, her replacement could very well be decided in a special election that spring, and so it behooves aspirants to begin cultivating support ahead of a possible snap race. And trust me, they already have been. In a city crawling with stifled ambition, the race is likely to be hella savage.

Most of the chatter in political circles has centered on Christine Pelosi, the Democratic National Committeewoman and the daughter of the woman who has represented the city for the last 30 years. Christine, a lawyer, has a lengthy political resume of her own, but her greatest asset is certainly her last name and her mother, a feared political force who would be expected to help whip the local donors and endorsements that Christine needs. The Pelosi family name I.D. alone is enough to make her the perceived frontrunner among Democratic insiders I talk to, even those that don’t love her. Still, orchestrating a hand-off like that, with all of the accusations of nepotism it would trigger, is easier said than done: “Pelosi is a legend and a political goddess,” said one Democratic insider paying close attention to the race-in-progress. “But I don’t think her power extends to king- or queen-making in her own [congressional district].” When I reached out to ask if she was interested in the seat, Christine offered the usual Pelosi team line that Nancy isn’t going anywhere early next year. “I have zero indication of that and would question the judgment of anyone who does,” she told me. “She has declared for the job and intends to perform it.”