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National Post - Activist on Warpath

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National Post - Activist on Warpath

Anti-Pelosi campaign fuelled by disenchantment

In the most liberal neighbourhood of America's most liberal city, it's possible to walk for blocks without seeing a single campaign sign declaring support for Barack Obama.

But those "Cindy Sheehan for Congress" posters? They are displayed in the windows of bohemian coffee shops and Hispanic diners throughout the Mission District, a community that's long been an incubator for leftist politics, and a place where the 2008 presidential election has sometimes been less interesting than the congressional battle being waged in their own backyard.

Here in California's 8th District, the most powerful Democrat in Congress, Nancy Pelosi, is facing a spirited -- though likely doomed -- challenge from Ms. Sheehan, the 51-year-old anti-war activist best known for her five-week vigil outside the Texas ranch of President George W. Bush in 2005.

It's a campaign being waged with anti-Pelosi arguments the rest of the United States might be surprised to hear.

Since become Speaker of the House of Representatives in early 2007, Ms. Pelosi has been a constant thorn in Mr. Bush's side on an array of issues. She has thwarted the President's efforts for a free trade deal with Colombia, repeatedly pushed legislation setting a timetable for troop withdrawal from Iraq and once questioned Mr. Bush's basic competence by saying "the emperor has no clothes."

Among Republican fund-raisers, Ms. Pelosi has now replaced Hillary Clinton as public enemy No. 1. The GOP message? Ms. Pelosi is an out-of-the mainstream "San Francisco liberal," who would steer the national agenda far left if Mr. Obama is elected and Democrats increase their congressional majorities.

But the perception in San Francisco itself of Ms. Pelosi is markedly different -- this is possibly the only city in America where the 10-term congresswoman can be targeted as part of the "imperialist establishment" without the label being widely disputed.

With its mix of counter-cultural social activists, sizable gay population and wealthy Nob Hill liberals, San Francisco has long walked to the beat of a different political drummer.

Only 10% of the city's registered voters are Republican.

For many residents in the Mission District -- which a local study recently found was the city's most consistently liberal area-- Ms. Pelosi's refusal to initiate impeachment proceedings against Mr. Bush over the war in Iraq was considered a betrayal.

For several months in 2007, anti-war protesters camped out outside Ms. Pelosi's San Francisco home.

"I'm running because she has been funding George Bush's war and she took impeachment off the table. Since she's been Speaker, she's just been a disaster," Ms. Sheehan said.

"I mean, she approved wireless wiretapping by telecoms. She just approved the US$700-billion Wall Street bailout, which has proven to be disastrous for the entire world economy.... She's really not in touch with San Francisco values at all."

Just as Mr. Obama has attacked John McCain by linking him to Mr. Bush, Ms. Sheehan's Mission Street campaign office is adorned with photos of Ms. Pelosi standing beside Mr. Bush, sharing a laugh.

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