Nancy Pelosi's preferred candidate to serve atop the powerful House Energy and Commerce Committee lost to a New Jersey lawmaker  Wednesday, delivering a blow to the House minority leader's continued influence over the Democratic caucus.

Rep. Frank Pallone (D-N.J.) defeated Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.) to serve as ranking Democrat on the energy panel, which remains one of the most important on Capitol Hill given its broad oversight of private-sector matters, including health care, consumer affairs and telecommunications. Members who serve on the committee can easily reap hefty campaign donations from  industries with business before the group.

Pallone defeated Eshoo 100 to 90 during a vote  Wednesday morning behind closed doors, according to several aides familiar with the process.

Pelosi actively campaigned for Eshoo and dismissed suggestions that Pallone's seniority was reason enough to elevate him to a position currently held by another Californian, retiring Rep. Henry Waxman.

In an interview this week, Pelosi talked up Eshoo's candidacy: "It’s about the future. And secondly, it’s about California, too." She argued that giving Eshoo the top Democratic seat on the committee would give her the clout needed to help raise millions of campaign dollars for party colleagues from West Coast donors, especially those from California.

In a statement, Pelosi congratulated Pallone and Eshoo on "a hard fought campaign."

“Each of our Ranking Members brings deep expertise, creative thinking, and far-reaching vision to their respective committees," she added.

The contest earned outsized public attention and criticism in recent days when Pelosi and her leadership team rejected a request by Rep. Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.) to vote by proxy from her home in the Chicago suburbs. Duckworth, an Army veteran who lost both of her legs during the Iraq war, is pregnant and under doctor's orders not to fly to Washington. Several colleagues attempted to secure her a proxy vote, but Pelosi and other top caucus leaders rejected the request, citing a years-long blanket prohibition on proxy voting.

When word of the incident leaked it stirred criticism that Pelosi -- despite her years of work to advance women's rights -- wasn't willing to help a pregnant, paraplegic colleague because Duckworth was supporting Pallone. Her decision earned the ire of Jon Stewart on "The Daily Show" on Tuesday night. Stewart said that the incident signals that it's time for Pelosi to step down as Democratic leader.

This post has been updated.