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U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi leaving Democratic leadership; daughter of Baltimore never forgot her ‘beloved hometown’

Lawmakers stand and applaud as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California pauses as she speaks on the House floor at the Capitol in Washington on Thursday.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi was moments into a highly anticipated speech about her political future Thursday when she referenced “our beloved hometown of Baltimore.”

Pelosi, the U.S. House’s first female speaker, then gave her colleagues a brief history lesson: how she glimpsed the wondrous Capitol dome for the first time while traveling to Washington for the swearing-in of her father, Thomas D’Alesandro Jr., who was a congressman from 1939 to 1947 before becoming Baltimore’s mayor. Pelosi’s brother, Thomas D’Alesandro III, also served as mayor.

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Pelosi, 82, who grew up in Little Italy, told colleagues in her House floor speech that she won’t seek reelection to a leadership post but will remain in Congress. Democrats lost their House majority during the midterm elections. Her decision, which she had kept mostly secret, came three weeks after her husband, Paul, was attacked with a hammer by a man who broke into the couple’s San Francisco home.

“For me, the hour has come for a new generation to lead the Democratic caucus that I so deeply respect,” she said.

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Pelosi’s colleagues gave her a standing ovation. An impromptu receiving line quickly formed, with Democratic U.S. Rep. Kweisi Mfume of Baltimore among the first to greet her. Mfume and Pelosi not only share a hometown, but also joined Congress in the same year, 1987.

In their moment together Thursday, Mfume said he spoke with Pelosi about how her father — months before his death — attended her first swearing-in on the House floor. “They brought him in with a wheelchair and I remember how he wept on the floor that day out of pride,” Mfume said in an interview.

While Pelosi stayed on, Mfume, 74, left Congress after five terms only to return in 2020.

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, the Southern Maryland Democrat, also announced that he won’t seek reelection to Democratic leadership, although he, too, will remain in Congress.

Hoyer, 83, a 42-year congressional veteran who began his political career in the state Senate in 1966, endorsed New York Rep. Hakeem Jeffries to lead the House Democrats. Hoyer is the highest-ranking member of Congress ever to represent Maryland.

Along with Jeffries, 52, Democrats have touted Reps. Katherine Clark, 59, of Massachusetts and Pete Aguilar, 43, of California as rising party leaders.

Pelosi, who first became speaker in 2007, has long been a Democratic stalwart with a firm grip on her caucus. “This daughter of Baltimore has been the fearless force behind much of the progress we have made in the 21st century,” said U.S. Sen. Chris Van Hollen, a Maryland Democrat.

She has also been a target of Republicans, who sought to make her the face of government overreach. She was a close ally of Democratic Rep. Elijah Cummings of Baltimore, who died in October 2019.

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“We did all we could, Elijah,” Pelosi said after the House impeached former President Donald Trump two months after the death of Cummings, who had a rare form of cancer.

Pelosi has seemed proud to make Baltimore part of her identity.

Taking a break from Washington, she returned to her old neighborhood in 2007 when a street was named for her. One observer labeled the event “The Return of the Prodigal Hon.”

“Every step that I took to the speakership began in this neighborhood,” she told the crowd after laying a bouquet of white roses at a statue of her father. Her brother, Thomas III, who introduced her to the crowd, died in October 2019.

Pelosi was raised “to be devoutly Catholic, deeply patriotic, proud of our Italian American heritage and staunchly Democratic,” she said at her brother’s funeral Mass.

Recently, a video was released showing her Jan. 6, the day of the attack on the U.S. Capitol by supporters of then-President Donald Trump.

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Pelosi is heard saying in the video that she hopes Trump arrives so she can “punch him out.”

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi speaks June 13 during a visit to the Fire Museum of Maryland, where the fireboat named in honor of her father is on exhibit.  The “Mayor Thomas D’Alesandro, Jr.” was commissioned in 1956.

Popular posts on social media quickly followed, some saying that her feistiness was evidence of “The Baltimore” coming out in her.

“Baltimore is a better predictor of her behavior than San Francisco,” Thomas Mann, of the Brookings Institution, once said.

Pelosi attended the Institute of Notre Dame, whose graduates also included former U.S. Sen. Barbara Mikulski, the longest-serving woman in Senate history.

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It was Maryland’s oldest Catholic college preparatory school for girls.

“Sad news,” Pelosi tweeted when it was announced in 2020 that the school was closing. “My mother and I both went to IND. My brother Tommy was a longtime board member. Its creed — Pro Deo et Patria — is enshrined in our hearts.”

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The creed means “for God and country.”

She later left Baltimore, first for Trinity College in Washington and then after marrying Paul Pelosi, moving to his native San Francisco, where she said she will continue to represent her constituents in the House.

“Nancy Pelosi has been one of the strongest and most effective speakers in U.S. history. Coming from Baltimore, this should surprise no one,” U.S. Sen. Ben Cardin, a Maryland Democrat, said Thursday.

Baltimore Sun librarian Paul McCardell contributed to this article.

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