Outgoing Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi said this afternoon that she is running to become the House minority leader in the next session of Congress, dispelling rumors that she planned to resign from House Democratic leadership or retire from Congress.
Pelosi, D-Calif., explained her decision in a letter to House Democrats, revealing that she had been widely encouraged to seek the post.
"Many of our colleagues have called with their recommendations on how to continue our fight for the middle class, and have encouraged me to run for House Democratic leader," Pelosi wrote. "Based on those discussions, and driven by the urgency of protecting health care reform, Wall Street reform, and Social Security and Medicare, I have decided to run."
Pelosi, the first female speaker of the House in U.S. history, told her Democratic colleagues that they must work together to ensure that Republicans do not overturn the legislation Democrats have passed during the past four years under Democratic control of the House.
"We have no intention of allowing our great achievements to be rolled back. It is my hope that we can work in a bipartisan way to create jobs and strengthen the middle class," Pelosi wrote.
"Our work is far from finished. As a result of Tuesday's election, the role of Democrats in the 112th Congress will change, but our commitment to serving the American people will not."
In the letter, Pelosi asked for the support of each of her House Democratic colleagues and invited them to share their thoughts on the leadership race.
"I am writing to respectfully request your support and I look forward to hearing your views. Please let me know what you are thinking," she wrote.
Pelosi served as minority leader from 2003 until 2007, when Democrats seized control of the House after the congressional midterm elections.
In an exclusive ABC News interview with Pelosi the day after the election, she told Diane Sawyer that she had not made up her mind.
"I'll have a conversation with my caucus, I'll have a conversation with my family, and pray over it, and decide how to go forward," she said Wednesday.
So far, Pelosi has no opposition for the post, although Rep. Heath Shuler, D-N.C., has said that if she decided to run for minority leader, he would challenge her. Rep. Jim Matheson, D-Utah, has also called for new leadership at the top of the House Democratic caucus, although it's unclear whether he would challenge her himself.
After news broke that Pelosi would seek the minority leader post, current House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., said he is exploring a bid for House minority whip and will consult with his colleagues before making a final decision.
"In the days since the election," he said in a statement, "I have received an outpouring of support from Democratic colleagues who have told me that I should remain in our party's leadership, so that our Caucus can hit the ground running with a strong, tested leadership team."
Katie Grant, communications director for the Office of the Majority Leader, said, "Mr. Hoyer has received a lot of support from members over the last few days asking him to stay as part of leadership. He will spend the next few days talking to members and getting their thoughts on him being minority whip."
The current majority whip, Rep. James Clyburn, D-S.C., also said this afternoon that he will run for minority whip, creating a potentially ugly battle for the House Democrats' second-ranking leadership post in the minority.
"I am seeking your support and vote for Democratic whip," Clyburn wrote to House Democrats. "Throughout the course of my tenure, I have demonstrated the ability and willingness to give selfless service to our Caucus. My record of leadership in our Caucus has prepared me well for the challenges ahead.
"I am confident we can rebuild the coalition that carried Democrats and President Obama into office in 2008 and that it will lead us on the road back to the majority in 2012."
Some Republicans predicted that if Pelosi is successful in her run for minority leader, it will lead to more House Democrats' losing in the 2012 elections.
"Given that there are now 60-plus defeated Democrat House members urgently seeking jobs due to Nancy Pelosi's failed leadership, we welcome her decision to run for House minority leader based on her proven ability to create jobs for Republican lawmakers," Ken Spain, communications director at the National Republican Congressional Committee, said.
"The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, and expecting a different result. Of course, if House Democrats are willing to sacrifice more of their members in 2012 for the glory of Nancy Pelosi, we are happy to oblige them."