The end of a political era: Nancy Pelosi’s leadership legacy in Washington

People surround a woman, who grasps the hand of a man and holds it to her face.
Lawmakers surround Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi in the House Chamber on Thursday after she announced she would not seek another leadership term.
(Kent Nishimura / Los Angeles Times)

Editor’s note: Essential California will take the holiday week off and return on Nov. 28.

Buongiorno, and welcome to the Essential California newsletter. It’s Friday, Nov. 18. I’m Hannah Wiley, a politics reporter for the Los Angeles Times who lives in San Francisco, reports to Sacramento and loves to travel the rest of the state for all kinds of stories.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi — the first woman to own that title and the party’s most exceptional fundraiser — announced Thursday that she would not seek another leadership term, ending months of speculation over what role she’d play as Republicans take narrow control of the chamber, as my D.C. colleague Nolan D. McCaskill wrote.


[Read the story:Pelosi to step down as House Democratic leader” in the Los Angeles Times]

No matter where you fall on the political spectrum, you have to admit that few have commanded influence like Pelosi, a Baltimore native who ascended to power in California more than three decades ago when she was elected to represent San Francisco in Congress.

Since then, Pelosi has used her role in Congress to tally substantial Democratic accomplishments, which she nodded to in a Thursday House floor speech, before saying, “The hour’s come for a new generation to lead the Democratic caucus that I so deeply respect.”

A woman in a white pantsuit stands at a lectern speaking into a microphone. People are seated in rows in front of her.
Pelosi speaks on Thursday from the floor of the House Chamber at the U.S. Capitol.
(Kent Nishimura / Los Angeles Times)

Pelosi became the first female speaker in January 2007. During her tenure, she garnered a reputation as a formidable leader of her caucus and a skillful fundraiser. She helped pass the Affordable Care Act in 2010 and, more recently, the American Rescue Plan, a massive spending package to keep the economy afloat during the pandemic. Pelosi also led two impeachments of former President Trump.

President Biden called Pelosi the “most consequential speaker of the House of Representatives in our history.” Gov. Gavin Newsom said she was “the model of dedicated public service.”

But Republicans might not miss her so much. The GOP routinely blasted Pelosi’s leadership and ridiculed her as an elite San Francisco liberal intent on dragging the nation into chaos. She had, to put it lightly, a notoriously difficult working relationship with House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Bakersfield), who could soon take her place as speaker.


But Republicans aren’t rid of her yet.

Pelosi is sticking around Congress, political columnist Mark Z. Barabak noted, meaning any congressional hopefuls in San Francisco will have to wait another two years, maybe more, to announce a bid. Pelosi will continue representing California’s best city (😉) in Washington after easily winning reelection on Nov. 8.

[Read the story: The essence of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi comes through in her not-farewell address” in the Los Angeles Times]

But now she might have a little more time with her children and grandchildren, along with her husband, Paul Pelosi, who was recently attacked with a hammer by an intruder who broke into their San Francisco home looking for the speaker.

Pelosi said a “new day is dawning on the horizon.”

“And I look forward — always forward — to the unfolding story of our nation. A story of light and love. Of patriotism and progress. Of many becoming one. And, always, an unfinished mission to make the dreams of today the reality of tomorrow.”

And now, here’s what’s happening across California:

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Remember the pair of Los Angeles convicts who escaped to a European life of luxury under fake names after running a pandemic fraud ring? They were extradited Thursday from Montenegro to the United States, Montenegrin authorities said. Los Angeles Times

The Tom Girardi scandal continues. A filing in federal court in Maryland on Wednesday offered new details about how Tom Girardi’s chief financial officer conducted what prosecutors have called a “side fraud” inside the massive corruption at the legal titan’s Los Angeles-based firm. Los Angeles Times

Now comes the hard part. Karen Bass will be Los Angeles’ next mayor. But with the campaigning over, the governing begins. Bass will take the helm of a city that’s deeply divided by political scandals and with plenty of problems to solve, like housing affordability and rising homelessness. Los Angeles Times

On that note. Bass pledged swift action on some of those very issues in her first public remarks since her victory over real estate developer Rick Caruso. “The people of Los Angeles have sent a clear message: It’s time for change, and it’s time for urgency,” Bass said. Politico

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Who will succeed Speaker Nancy Pelosi? That would be New York Democratic Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, a rising star in the Democratic Party who currently serves as chair of the House Democratic Caucus. San Francisco Chronicle

The 2022 midterms just ended, but we’re already gearing up for the 2024 election. It’s a reminder that the next two years’ fiercest political battles will be fought not in Washington, but between clashing blue and red states. Los Angeles Times

Earlier this month, Gov. Gavin Newsom dismayed California’s local leaders when he rejected every action plan on homelessness in the state. The governor demanded greater urgency in addressing the crisis and called on everyone to “step up.” Today, local elected leaders from across the state will meet with Newsom to hash out exactly what this means, and what it will take for them to receive the hundreds of millions in funding that Newsom is now holding hostage. Los Angeles Times


A 22-year-old man was arrested Wednesday on suspicion of attempting to murder peace officers. The arrest was in connection to a Wednesday crash where a vehicle plowed into a large group of Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department recruits who were out on a training run in South Whittier. Investigators “have developed probable cause to believe it was intentional,” said Sheriff Alex Villanueva. The department released him Thursday, saying investigators are continuing to develop their case. Los Angeles Times

Prosecutors are asking a federal judge to sentence a 54-year-old Rocklin, Calif., man to two years in prison for his participation in the Jan. 6 insurrection. Tommy Frederick Allan is accused of, among other things, stealing an American flag and documents after he entered the Capitol through a fire door that had been broken open. Sacramento Bee

“The main thing she’s seeking here is change.” A San Mateo County sheriff’s deputy alleged in a lawsuit that male supervisors in her department fostered a work environment “rife with sex harassment and discrimination.” The Mercury News

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A little relief. Low-income residents, senior citizens and other eligible customers of the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power don’t have to worry anymore about shutoffs for unpaid utility bills, the agency announced Wednesday. Los Angeles Times

California’s state reptile is hurtling toward extinction. The Mojave Desert was once home to hundreds of tortoises per square mile. Today, most tortoise populations in California and outside designated recovery areas have fallen to two or three adults per square mile, making it difficult for the reptiles to find a mate. Los Angeles Times


Latino students give California’s Hispanic Serving Institutions a “mixed bag” review. Some students, researchers and advocates say that some colleges with an HSI designation aren’t doing enough to meet the needs of their Latino pupils, leading some to push for the title to take on greater meaning. CalMatters

Alex Klein was one of the last collaborators to team up with Kanye West before his spiral. It’s left his promising tech company with a flagship product whose most famous user has disgraced himself. Los Angeles Times

The slap effect. Film director Antoine Fuqua worried that his new film “Emancipation” might never be seen after actor Will Smith, who stars in the period action thriller, struck comedian Chris Rock at this year’s Oscars. In the wake of the slap, with Smith’s reputation tarnished, questions swirled over the fate of “Emancipation.” But the film’s backers hope it can stand on its own artistic merits and the importance of its subject matter. Los Angeles Times

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Los Angeles: 72, sunny. San Diego: 65, sunny. San Francisco: 64, partly cloudy. San Jose: 66, partly cloudy. Fresno: 63, partly cloudy. Sacramento: 69, sunny.


Today’s California memory is from Cyn Taibbi:

It was July of 1966. I was an 11-year-old blooming hippie visiting cousins in Costa Mesa when I saw her at a secondhand store … a 3-foot-tall, handmade, blue and green, tissue-paper fairy. I had to have her. She represented everything that being from Massachusetts wasn’t at that time. Cool. Hip. Groovy. Magical. She commanded the trunk of my parent’s old Ford all the way home to Boston, enchanting me for years to come until she was torn and tattered beyond repair. Whenever I think of California, she’s the first thing that comes to mind. Still.

If you have a memory or story about the Golden State, share it with us. (Please keep your story to 100 words.)

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