Pelosi announces she will seek reelection; Wiener won't run for congressional seat

  • by Cynthia Laird, News Editor
  • Friday September 8, 2023
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Congressmember Nancy Pelosi, left, rode with U.S. Senate candidate and Congressmember Adam Schiff in the June San Francisco Pride parade. Photo: Jane Philomen Cleland
Congressmember Nancy Pelosi, left, rode with U.S. Senate candidate and Congressmember Adam Schiff in the June San Francisco Pride parade. Photo: Jane Philomen Cleland

Congressmember Nancy Pelosi on Friday announced that she will seek reelection next year, dashing plans for gay state Senator Scott Wiener to run for her seat in 2024. The news puts on hold a legislative scramble that would have happened had Pelosi decided to retire.

The announcement was not a complete surprise. Pelosi, the longtime San Francisco Democrat and former House speaker, gave up her leadership role in Congress earlier this year after Republicans took control, ushering in the next generation of Democratic standard-bearers. However, Pelosi has been raising campaign cash, with the San Francisco Chronicle reporting July 18 that she brought in nearly $2.1 million during the first six months of the year.

Pelosi made the announcement at a gathering of volunteers and was first reported by Politico.

Wiener, a former San Francisco supervisor who was elected to the state Senate in 2016 and reelected in 2020, in March formed an exploratory committee for the 11th Congressional District that Pelosi has held since she defeated the late gay supervisor Harry Britt in 1987. (The district's number has changed over the years due to redistricting.)

Wiener has always said that he would not seek the seat unless Pelosi decided to step down.

"Speaker Emerita Pelosi is one of the most talented and transformational leaders of our lifetime, and it's a good thing for San Francisco and the nation that she will continue to serve our community," Wiener wrote in a September 8 text message to the Bay Area Reporter.

Wiener added, "Right now, I'm focused like a laser on the end of our legislative session in Sacramento. Yesterday, the Assembly passed two major housing bills I'm authoring, and the day before it passed our psychedelics decriminalization bill."

He noted that he's "locked in a battle with climate deniers to pass our corporate carbon transparency bill."

Pelosi's daughter, Christine, had also been mentioned as a potential candidate. She recently attended a volunteer workday at the National AIDS Memorial Grove with her mother.

Wiener announced July 18 that he had raised $820,000 since opening his exploratory committee. A news release stated that 70% of donors to the exploratory committee are from San Francisco and 94.5% are from California. The majority of donations are from people contributing $500 or less, he noted.

"I'm grateful to everyone who helped us reach this important milestone," Wiener stated at the time. "The enthusiasm I've received for a potential congressional run has been an amazing honor."

Wiener stated that next year, his top priority will be to secure stable funding for Bay Area public transportation systems "in order to avoid major service cuts."

And he said he would seek reelection next year to his state Senate seat.

At the Alice B. Toklas LGBTQ Democratic Club's annual Pride breakfast June 25 in San Francisco, Pelosi and Wiener both complemented each other.

Wiener thanked her for helping to turn around the fight for federal funds for AIDS when she went to Congress. During her remarks later, Pelosi acknowledged Wiener's comment thanking straight Democratic state legislators who support LGBTQ-related bills even though they come from more conservative parts of California. She made a similar comment about House members who come from more conservative districts and states.

At the breakfast, Pelosi also offered a list of accomplishments during her two stints as House speaker (2007-2011 and 2019-2023). Those included passing the Affordable Care Act, the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Act, repeal of the military's anti-gay "Don't Ask, Don't Tell policy, and passing the Respect for Marriage Act.

In 1996, legislation by Pelosi was signed into law by then-President Bill Clinton, elevating "the Grove" as the nation's sole federally-designated National AIDS Memorial.

She also told attendees at the breakfast that President Joe Biden was the first "at his level" to come out in support of same-sex marriage when he served as President Barack Obama's vice president in 2012. Last December, Biden signed the Respect for Marriage Act during a ceremony on the South Lawn of the White House.

The Respect for Marriage Act repealed the discriminatory "Defense of Marriage Act" that was passed in 1996 but had key provisions struck down by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2013 (Section 3, U.S. v. Windsor) and 2015 (Section 2, Obergefell v. Hodges). Not only does it require federal recognition of same-sex and interracial marriages nationwide but also mandates states must recognize such unions performed in other states. The act includes protections for religious liberty.

Wiener was targeted with online harassment by QAnon conspiracy theorists and anti-Semites over Senate Bill 145, as the B.A.R. previously reported. The bill which was signed into law by Governor Gavin Newsom, changed who qualifies for the California Sex Offender Registry. He has received death threats in recent years.

Wiener recently told the B.A.R. that the city's LGBTQ political strength has ebbed and flowed over the years.

"Our community has had a lot of ups and downs politically in San Francisco," he said in a recent brief phone interview earlier this summer. For example, from the time Rafael Mandelman joined the Board of Supervisors in July 2018 until last May, he was the only out member of it. He was then joined by gay District 6 Supervisor Matt Dorsey, whom Breed appointed to fill the seat of former supervisor Matt Haney, a straight ally who won election to the state Assembly. Dorsey went on to win a full four-year term last November, as did gay District 4 Supervisor Joel Engardio, who defeated former supervisor Gordon Mar, a straight ally.

Wiener said the LGBTQ community, like others in the city, has been divided at times over the years.

"When we are united, or at least less divided, we are very, very strong," Wiener added.

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