Democrats have chosen Nancy Pelosi of California as their leader in the House of Representatives, making her the first woman to lead a party in the U.S. Congress.
The vote came Thursday in a closed-door meeting of House Democrats at the U.S. Capitol.
Ms. Pelosi, who represents the San Francisco area, replaces outgoing minority leader Richard Gephardt of Missouri, who said last week he would step aside after eight years in the position.
His announcement followed mid-term elections in which Republicans expanded their majority in the House and regained control of the Senate.
Ms. Pelosi moves up from minority whip, the number two position among House Democrats. She defeated two other Democrats in today's vote, Tennessee Representative Harold Ford and Ohio Representative Marcy Kaptur.
Republicans and Democratic opponents say Ms. Pelosi is too liberal to lead the Democrats back to a congressional majority. Last month, she voted against the Congressional resolution authorizing President Bush to use force against Iraq. She is also known as a strong supporter of abortion rights and rights for homosexuals.
But she says she can work with all Democrats to build a strong, cohesive message. Some Democrats say the lack of such a message hurt the party in the November 5 elections.