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Thursday, 7 November, 2002, 17:29 GMT
In the footsteps of Gephardt
Martin Frost and Nancy Pelosi will fight for leadership of the Democratic party
Frost and Pelosi: From different factions of the party
Richard Gephardt's decision to step down as House Democratic leader has sparked a battle between the liberal Nancy Pelosi and the more centrist Martin Frost for the top party job.

With the two being from different factions of the party, analysts say the contest could chart a new ideological course for a party left in disarray after its poor showing in the mid-term elections.

Dick Gephardt may seek to run for the White House
Dick Gephardt is standing down as leader of the party
Reports say party insiders are currently arguing over whether the Democratic losses were down to the fact that the party was either too liberal or not liberal enough.

This is a recurring issue for the party and is likely to be a theme of the upcoming contest for the job to help lead the party back into power.

  • Nancy Pelosi

    Nancy Pelosi is an unabashed West Coast liberal, who made history last year by being elected to the number two spot in the party leadership. As House minority whip, she became the highest-ranking woman in the history of the US Congress.

    Her main responsibility as whip is to muster enough votes to pass the party's agenda.

    Mrs Pelosi is seen as one of the party's rising stars. She is a prolific fundraiser - a talent that is admired by allies and adversaries alike.

    An Iraqi schoolgirl plays in front of a poster of President Saddam Hussein
    Mrs Pelosi voted against an Iraq attack
    A native of Baltimore, she comes from a large Italian-American, Roman Catholic family. She is also the child of one of Baltimore's foremost political families - both her father and brother served as mayor.

    Her base is among California Democrats, 33 of whom will be in the House next year. She also draws support from women and liberals.

    She has represented her district in San Francisco since 1987, and it is seen as one of the most liberal districts in the nation.

    While she is said to have plenty of allies in the top ranks of the party, her liberal credentials have won her critics.

    She recently voted against an Iraq attack and she has been outspoken about her opposition to normal trade relations with China because of its record on human rights abuses.

    She is also on the left on social and economic issues, such as education, health care, housing and environmental protection.

    The 61-year-old veteran congresswoman is also a senior member of the House appropriations and intelligence panels.

    Despite her political childhood, Mrs Pelosi did not follow a traditional course into politics.

    She was a San Francisco homemaker for years, married to a businessman and raising five children.

    Mrs Pelosi became active in Californian politics in the early 1980s. She delved into the fundraising arena as chief fundraiser for the national Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee for the 1986 election.

    She had been thinking about running for mayor in 1987 when her local congresswoman fell ill and died. Mrs Pelosi won the seat in a special election.

    Analysts say her gender should be a plus for a party that relies on votes of women for victory.

  • Martin Frost

    Martin Frost from Texas is chairman of the Democratic Caucus, the number three ranking position in the party.

    Analysts say Mr Frost will attempt to appeal as a moderate best able to position the party to win national elections.

    Badge of the Office of Homeland Security
    Mr Frost was involved with setting up the new Office of Homeland Security
    After the Democrats' dismal showing in the mid-term elections, Mr Frost's spokesman, Tom Eisenhower, said the party needed to take note of the nation's shift to the right in the election and not select a leader from the party's left wing.

    "The country didn't move to the left yesterday, and Democrats won't win back the majority by moving further left," he said, clearly alluding to Mrs Pelosi.

    Mr Frost, the only Jewish Member ever elected to leadership in the Congress, is now in his twelfth term in the chamber.

    He is a long-standing supporter of a strong national defence.

    He has served as co-chair of bipartisan panels addressing the causes of youth violence and the continuity of Congress in the event of a terrorist attack.

    Mr Frost also served on the House Select Committee on Homeland Security during consideration of the creation of a new Department of Homeland Security.

    His website lists his interest in bringing together Democratic members with different regional and ideological backgrounds, allowing the Caucus to work toward a common agenda that addresses the real concerns of America's working families.

    According to the Washington Post Mr Frost, in his battle with Mrs Pelosi, "faces the daunting task of winning over a caucus dominated by urban liberals tired of compromising with Bush on tax and spending policies."


  • Key races

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    Results Latest: 13:58 GMT
    House:
    206 seats 227 seats 2 seats
    Senate:
    49 seats 51 seats 1 seats
    Seats: House/Senate
    Democrats: 206 / 49
    Republicans: 227 / 51
    Independents: 2 / 1
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