SAN FRANCISCO (KCBS)— A big birthday is coming up for San Francisco Democrat Nancy Pelosi who turns 75 on Thursday. She's been the House Democratic Leader since 2003, and while there have been no indications of when she may eventually step down, some high-ranking members have seemingly been testing the waters.
KCBS Political Analyst Marc Sandalow said she is still firmly ensconced as a Democratic leader, but offered some ideas about potential successors:
"It's certainly possible that if Democrats—there's 435 seats up every two years; Democrats win a majority— she would become the Speaker of the House, but it's terribly unlikely, although possible," Sandalow said.
That's because of the way the districts are redrawn, which happens every 10 years, based on the U.S. Census.
"There probably are only about 30 or 40 seats in play right now total. Democrats would need to pick up 30 seats to pick up the majority from Republicans. That's not likely in 2016 or 2018. It's not likely until the new Census in 2020. That means the next election when the new districts would take place would be 2022, meaning that if Nancy Pelosi were to hold on for that long to become Speaker, she'd be 82-years-old."
Sandalow speculated about who would be in the next generation of house Dem leaders, at least down the road, noting that Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) was, as much as anybody, being groomed by Pelosi to be the next leader.
"He's in his 50s, he's a liberal, he's a big fundraiser, and he's the ranking Democrat on the budget committee and works well behind the scenes."
But not so fast. Van Hollen has decided to run for Senate in what Sandalow calls the incestuous tying of the knot that is Barbara Mikulski, the Baltimore, Maryland senator who's been in the Senate longer than any woman in history and went to high school with Pelosi some 50 years ago, who is stepping down.
So with Van Hollen running for Senate, there's no obvious heir to the Pelosi throne come the 2020s.
"It's set off a scrambling in the House right now. It really affects San Francisco politics, because people say, 'Why is Pelosi there if she's not going to become Speaker?' [It's] because Pelosi still raises hundreds of millions of dollars. Pelosi still holds Democrats together. If you want to understand the struggles that John Boehner has had holding Republicans together, that's in part because Nancy Pelosi has been so effective holding Democrats together."
The question is how much longer can she do it?
"I'm sure people in San Francisco are circling around. When Pelosi leaves there are not a whole lot of better jobs than to be the representative from San Francisco as a Democrat. It's a pretty safe seat."
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