SAN FRANCISCO—Today could mark the final moment on the national stage for Cindy Sheehan, the outspoken "peace mom" whose son's death in Iraq inspired her to join the antiwar movement and lead a high-profile protest outside President Bush's Texas ranch in the summer of 2005. Sheehan has spent the past several months campaigning here against Nancy Pelosi, the Democratic speaker of the House, in a fight for Pelosi's seat in Congress. Pelosi is one of the most powerful figures in Washington, and her position as House speaker puts her third in the line of succession to the presidency, but she has had to tread carefully around Sheehan in this liberal district, which includes the city of San Francisco.
There has been little doubt among political experts that Pelosi, who has won her last 10 elections with about 80 percent of the vote, will win. Still, Sheehan has done her best to drive a wedge between Pelosi and the antiwar left, making an issue, in particular, of Pelosi's decision to continue funding the Iraq war and her refusal to pursue the impeachment of President Bush. Both issues are widely supported by voters in San Francisco. When Pelosi first became the House speaker two years ago, many pundits in Washington wondered if she would be able to strike a balance between conservative Democrats on Capitol Hill and her own liberal constituents.
Sheehan's efforts, though, seem to have come to naught. Her campaign has struggled to raise money and her repeated requests for a debate with Pelosi have been ignored. Robocalls made by one of Sheehan's most high-profile supporters, actress Roseanne Barr, were not well received. In recent weeks, Sheehan has begun to complain that she was being harassed, her campaign's office windows were broken, and she learned that she had been summoned for jury duty during the week of the election. Her election prospects, meanwhile, have grown bleak: Sheehan, running as an independent, trails not only Pelosi but the Republican candidate, Dana Walsh, as well.
Last week, Sheehan made one last attempt to be heard when she called into a radio interview Pelosi was giving. "If you really cared about the voters in San Francisco you could find an hour to debate your opponents, because you do have some opponents here in San Francisco," Sheehan said. "Over 60 percent of this district in 2006 voted for an impeachment resolution and I just want to know why you haven't represented the people of your district and why you haven't impeached George Bush and Dick Cheney? And you still have time."
Pelosi defended her decision, saying she knew the issue was controversial: "I commend Cindy for her race for Congress and again express the respect that I have for her for her courage in speaking out on what she believes in so articulately."
Sheehan is reportedly considering a run in the 2010 election.
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