Nancy Pelosi Gets San Francisco Chronicle Endorsement, With a Catch

Political insiders and many San Franciscans in general widely expected this year to be Nancy Pelosi’s swan song.

The former speaker, who is 83 and has represented the city in Congress for 37 years, saw Republicans take hold of the House last year and has turned over her leadership of the House Democrats to Hakeem Jeffries.

And her high political profile in a liberal city that many conservatives love to hate seemed to be a factor in the brutal October 2022 hammer attack on her husband, Paul Pelosi, in their San Francisco home. A far-right believer in conspiracy theories, David DePape, was found guilty of attempted kidnapping and assault in the attack, and admitted during his trial that he had planned to take Nancy Pelosi hostage and “break her kneecaps.”

For many people, all that would be enough to prompt thoughts of retirement — but not Ms. Pelosi. She is running for another two-year term in November, with no major challenger in sight. Over the weekend, her re-election bid received the endorsement of her hometown paper, The San Francisco Chronicle.

No surprise there — the paper has long backed Ms. Pelosi’s campaigns for office and for leadership positions among House Democrats, and she occasionally sends notes to its journalists complimenting their work.

But this time, as the paper said, there was a catch.

The editorial board, which does not usually conduct endorsement interviews for candidates with no serious challengers, praised Ms. Pelosi’s “strength as a political leader” in its endorsement this time, and noted that she was “tough, charming and pragmatic” when she met with the board.

But it raised big concerns, too, saying that Ms. Pelosi would not be a policy innovator at this late stage in her career, and questioning her insistence on investigating financial ties between Russia and protesters who call for a cease-fire in the Israel-Hamas war.

The board also implied that she ought to make way in Washington for younger San Francisco Democrats, particularly Scott Wiener, a state senator who wants her seat someday but does not want to run against her.

Mr. Wiener is known as one of California’s more innovative voices on the issue of building more housing. He makes the case that dense cities help address climate change by enabling people to live near their jobs and avoid long, exhaust-spewing car commutes.

Mr. Wiener said in an interview that Ms. Pelosi “continues to put wins on the board for San Francisco values” and that he fully supports her.

Ms. Pelosi’s spokesperson, Aaron Bennett, said she had no intention of slowing down.

“Speaker Pelosi is not on a shift, she’s on a mission,” he said. “This election is about the future, and in this pivotal moment for our city, there is no one better equipped to continue to deliver for San Francisco than Nancy Pelosi.”

Though Ms. Pelosi’s age is advanced, there has been no chatter among San Franciscans about her having perhaps lost a step, as there was for several years about Senator Dianne Feinstein — and as there is on the national stage now about President Biden and the Senate minority leader, Mitch McConnell, both of whom are 81.

Alex Clemens, a longtime San Francisco political strategist, said it was true that Ms. Pelosi’s eventual retirement would set off a round of political musical chairs that many younger office holders are anxiously awaiting. But it is also true, he said, that she shows no signs of slowing down.

“She continues to manage a schedule that exhausts her staff on two coasts,” he said.

Ms. Pelosi has also proven adept at raising money for other Democrats and at getting under the skin of Donald Trump, two skills that will be in demand this year.

“If there has ever been a man behind the curtain, it’s a woman, and she’s Nancy Pelosi,” Mr. Clemens said. “She continues to run things with a defter touch than any other figure in American politics.”

She and Paul Pelosi, looking fit and recovered from the attack, have been busy. Last month, appearing in a black gown and black tuxedo, they co-chaired the opening-night gala dinner for the San Francisco Ballet at City Hall.

Mr. Pelosi attended a fund-raiser for San Francisco General Hospital last week and told the crowd, both in a recorded video and from his table, about the care he received there after the attack. He then dialed in Ms. Pelosi from Washington, who also thanked the hospital.

The couple attended the Super Bowl, flying coach to Las Vegas on Saturday morning.

Tennyson Wilson, a passenger on the flight who sat next to the Pelosis, told reporters from the public radio station KQED that he was impressed by Ms. Pelosi’s productivity during the short flight.

“I think she read, like, five newspapers,” he said in the interview. “It was cool watching the machine work. It was like sitting next to your grandma, but doing way more work.”

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