WASHINGTON -- House Democrats on Wednesday named Rep. Nancy Pelosi as party whip, their No. 2 post, bringing a Californian into the highest ranks of congressional leadership for the first time in a dozen years and a woman for the first time ever.
Capitalizing on a rare opportunity to vault into the upper echelon of House Democratic leadership, Pelosi defeated Rep. Steny H. Hoyer of Maryland, 118-95, in a vote lawmakers held behind closed doors on Capitol Hill. She will replace the current House minority whip, Rep. David E. Bonior, when he steps aside on Jan. 15 to run for governor of Michigan.
After the votes were counted, a beaming Pelosi emerged from the Democratic caucus surrounded by a phalanx of Democrats eager to tout their new whip. "She's going to be a giant," proclaimed House Minority Leader Richard Gephardt, D-Mo., and Hoyer was there to shake Pelosi's hand and offer a congratulatory kiss on the cheek.
The election thrust Pelosi, a formidable fund-raiser and senior legislator who has represented San Francisco in the House for the last 14 years, into a prominent role on the national political stage.
By choosing Pelosi for whip, Democrats were guaranteed a burst of favorable coverage about the woman who has set an important political precedent. Several female lawmakers from both major parties have held mid-level leadership posts in Congress in recent years, but none has ever been a party whip or leader.
Pelosi, 61, relished the milestone but acknowledged that attention would rapidly shift to her influence on the party's legislative record and showing at the ballot.
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