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The Hill (Washington, DC)

Cindy Sheehan Seeking Star Power in Campaign

Karissa Marcum

Anti-war activist Cindy Sheehan is making celebrity endorsements a key facet of her long-shot bid to defeat House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) next year.0925 07

In a recent interview with The Hill, Sheehan said she has been endorsed by actress Roseanne Barr, country crooner Willie Nelson and Rage Against the Machine guitarist Tom Morello.

Sheehan added that White House hopeful Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio) and former Rep. Cynthia McKinney (D-Ga.) are also backing her.

"Celebrities bring a certain kind of - good or bad, it seems like our lives are centered around TV and movies - I think it does bring credibility," Sheehan said.

Nelson is a friend of Sheehan's and has offered to help her raise money for her campaign. "[Nelson and his wife] just have the exact correct politics and the exact compassion for the earth and humanity that I think attracts us as friends," she said.

"I support Cindy Sheehan in everything she does," Nelson wrote in an e-mail, "whether it's running for Congress, or the president of the U.S. She's a great American, not afraid to stand up for what she believes in."

Sheehan, who is running as an independent, unaffiliated candidate, is counting on comedians such as Barr to lend some star power to the campaign. Several San Francisco-based comediennes are planning a campaign fundraiser for Sheehan, she said.

Spokesmen for Barr and Morello did not return phone calls seeking comment.

Kucinich praised Sheehan, but declined to confirm that he is formally backing her.

"I like Cindy," Kucinich said. "She has been a very important spokesperson in challenging the war. She and I marched together against the war."

He said he doesn't comment on races waged against incumbents as a "matter of policy."

Sheehan is backing Kucinich for the presidency.

Hip Hop Caucus President Rev. Lennox Yearwood Jr. said he will lend his support. "Cindy Sheehan is the Rosa Parks of the anti-war movement and the race in San Francisco is fundamentally about organized people versus organized money," he said.

Pelosi won her 2006 congressional campaign handily, taking 80 percent of the vote. She's also had her share of celebrity support. Celebrities ranging from movie producer Francis Ford Coppola to comedian Robin Williams have given money to her campaigns.

Bruce Cain, a political science professor at the University of California Berkeley and the director of the D.C.-based Institute of Governmental Studies, said Sheehan's chances of beating Pelosi are "slim to none."

Sheehan is unlikely to get 10 to 15 percent of the vote because there aren't enough "progressive, green, anarchist types" in the district to elect her, Cain said. Californians do not blame Pelosi for not getting troops out of Iraq, he added.

"The motivation to elect a Democrat is going to be stronger than the motivation to make a point," Cain said.

Pelosi has already accumulated close to $1.3 million in her campaign coffers. A Pelosi spokesman refused to comment on Sheehan's campaign.

In a recent e-mail on Iraq that was sent by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee to potential donors, Pelosi pointed out that she has been a longtime activist: "Long before I was Speaker of the House, I was a political activist like you ..."


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Sheehan said hers will be a grassroots campaign. She doesn't expect to come close to out-raising Pelosi.

"I'm not going to be competing with her on money or on the establishment," she said, noting she won't accept any corporate donations.
McKinney, an outspoken opponent of the war, expressed her support for Sheehan at a rally in August near one of the president's vacation homes in Maine.

"Our children deserve a better country and the world deserves a better partner. That's why I'm happy to see Cindy Sheehan run for Congress. I want Cindy to win," McKinney said.

Sheehan said she expects more celebrity endorsements to roll in as her campaign kicks into high gear, but she does not anticipate many of Pelosi's colleagues will back her.

"If they support me it's going to be difficult for them to get chairmanships or to get on a committee," she said. "I totally understand if nobody comes out and supports me."

She wasn't shy about criticizing Democrats for funding the war.

"If I tell my children, 'Don't do drugs' ... and then one of my children asks, 'Mom, can I have money for drugs?' and I give them money for drugs, that's showing them my approval," she said. "[Congress is] giving [its] approval to President Bush to wage this occupation of Iraq."

Part of Sheehan's campaign will aim to enfranchise minorities and young people "who have felt disenfranchised by the power elite."

She's also getting educated on local issues important to California's 8th district and house-hunting in the area. Sheehan lives in northern California, but plans to move into the district soon. She's organizing her campaign team and hopes to begin campaign fundraisers and events in October.

Sheehan's battle against the war began after her son Casey, a 24-year-old Army specialist, was killed in Baghdad. She began demonstrating outside of President Bush's Texas ranch and founded Gold Star Families for Peace in August of 2005. In May, Sheehan announced that she was retiring from anti-war activism, only to return with a challenge to Pelosi: If Pelosi didn't move to impeach Bush and Vice President Cheney, Sheehan would mount a congressional campaign against her. Sheehan subsequently announced her candidacy in August.

Sheehan called the first female Speaker of the House a "consummate politician" and emphasized that she and Pelosi agree on most issues, with the notable exceptions of Iraq and impeachment.

"In her heart she probably does care about the people of Iraq - but when they sit down to talk about Iraq they talk politics, not about the human cost of war," she said, referring to Democrats.

Pelosi is vulnerable in liberal San Francisco, a district where the majority of people don't support the Iraq war, Sheehan said. "People over there are dismayed," she said. "Nancy is not holding Bush and Cheney accountable. She's not ending the war in Iraq."

Many Democrats, however, have defended Pelosi's action. They say that Pelosi has worked feverishly to end the war, but does not have the votes to override the president's veto pen.

Sheehan promised that she would not be known as a one-issue candidate, a label that hurt Ned Lamont in his general election bid to defeat Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.).

Sheehan, who doesn't have health insurance, said that making healthcare available to all Americans would be a priority.

"[The Iraq war] is an overriding issue. We can talk about universal healthcare, we can talk about the costs of a college education, we can talk about a lot of issues that affect every American. When we are spending money on Iraq, we cannot rebuild our infrastructure - we cannot do that in America when we are devoted to the war machine."

She added, "I really think we've done the marches, we've done the disobedience and the next natural step is to challenge the establishment. This really isn't me against Nancy Pelosi. This is me against the war machine."

© 2007 Capitol Hill Publishing Corp.

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