Activist Sheehan to challenge Pelosi

August 12, 2008 4:31:42 PM PDT
A well-known anti-war activist is challenging House Speaker Nancy Pelosi for failing to make progress to end the war in Iraq. Cindy Sheehan, who lost her son in the war, became a symbol of the anti-war movement when she began a vigil outside President Bush's Texas ranch in August 2005.

"I feel like Nancy Pelosi, as the Democratic leader, has failed our country miserably, funding for more war," Sheehan said Monday. "The speaker's failed to hold George Bush and Dick Cheney accountable."

San Francisco election officials on Monday said Sheehan turned in 214 more valid signatures than the 10,198 she needed to qualify for the November ballot. She will appear as a decline-to-state candidate for the 8th Congressional District seat.

Sheehan, 51, said Pelosi had failed to persuade her party to end funding for the Iraq war after Democrats reclaimed the House majority in the 2006 midterm elections. She also accused the speaker of failing to hold the administration accountable for the administration's warrantless wiretapping program.

Pelosi spokesman Drew Hammill said the speaker welcomed the challenge.

"The speaker has the highest respect for Cindy Sheehan. Ms. Sheehan lost her son in the Iraq war and has the right -- as every American has -- to run for office," Hammill said in a statement.

Pelosi, 67 and in her 11th term, has said she is disappointed that Democrats have not been able to stop the war in Iraq. Last year, the House passed legislation giving President Bush $70 billion for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan with no deadlines for troop withdrawal.

It's rare for candidates to qualify as independents because it requires gathering more signatures from registered voters than signing up with a political party, said Tony Quinn, editor of the California Target Book, which studies legislative and congressional races.

He said Quentin Kopp, a former San Francisco supervisor, was the last independent to win a major race in California when he defeated Democrat Lou Papan in 1986 for a state Senate seat.

Quinn said he predicts San Francisco voters won't "throw away many votes" in November because the incumbent is the highest-ranking member of the House.

Pelosi won her 2006 re-election campaign with 80 percent of the vote.

Sheehan also will be at a distinct financial disadvantage as she takes on one of the most powerful politicians in the country.

She said her campaign has collected more than $300,000, compared with nearly $2.4 million collected by Pelosi through the end of June.

The other candidate on the ballot for the 8th district seat is Republican Dana Walsh.

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