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House Democrats re-elected Rep. Richard Gephardtof Missouri as their leader today, swatting away a centrist challenge from North Carolina Rep. Charlie Rose by a 150-58 vote. Gephardt, who ran unsuccessfully for president in 1988, will return to the post he's held since 1989 -- this time as head of a minority that, after today's vote, may swerve hard to the left. "Our mission is to represent workers, middle income families, the poor families of our country," Gephardt told reporters after the secret ballot. "I also look forward to winning the House back in 1996." His right-hand man, Democratic whip Rep. David Bonior of Michigan, likewise won out over Texas conservative Charlie Stenholm. TIME Washington correspondent Karen Tumulty says the return of Gephardt, who becomes the senior congressional Democrat with Speaker Tom Foley's re-election defeat, puts his party in the same combative position the GOP has been in for most of the last 40 years. "Gephardt is considered very partisan," she says, "and they sent a signal they want to stick with a fighting Democrat. They're digging in for war." BTW: Gephardt's day wasn't entirely painless. He came to the Capitol for the vote from a hospital where he was preparing for gall bladder surgery. He returned immediately after his victory.Post your opinion on theWashingtonbulletin board.