Washington California Rep. Nancy Pelosi, a liberal with 15 years in Congress, moved to the brink of victory Friday in the battle for House Democratic leader, driving her most formidable rival from the race and pocketing his endorsement.
"This race is over," she said at a news conference. She swiftly attacked Republicans and said her first task would be to forge a common Democratic position on "growing the economy."
Pelosi made her remarks in San Francisco a few hours after Rep. Martin Frost withdrew from the race :quot; and shortly before another challenger, Rep. Harold Ford of Tennessee, jumped in.
Ford, 32, a three-term lawmaker, used a news conference to criticize Pelosi for a brand of politics he said would lead the party to further defeats. Later, in an interview, he added, "We remain a big, big underdog. But she does not have this thing locked up."
Pelosi had a different view.
"I don't think they chose me as an outspoken San Francisco liberal. I think they chose me as a person who can lead the caucus to victory, as a person who can build coalitions among the various segments of our caucus and as a person who represents various points of views within the caucus."
Pelosi, who has served as Democratic whip for the past year, would be the first woman elected to lead either party in either house of Congress. She would work closely with the party's Senate leader, Tom Daschle of South Dakota, in the effort to return the party to power.
Pelosi, 62, would succeed Rep. Dick Gephardt as head of a caucus that has been eight years in the minority.