SAN FRANCISCO - Anti-war activist Cindy Sheehan qualified Friday for a November showdown with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, collecting the signatures needed to get on the ballot as an independent candidate for Congress.
"We're very excited," said Sheehan, 51, the mother of a soldier killed in Iraq who is well-known for her protest outside President Bush's Texas ranch. "Now we have to get organized and regroup."
Republican Dana Walsh and Libertarian Philip Berg will join Pelosi and Sheehan on the Nov. 4 ballot.
The collection of signatures by Sheehan's campaign was more exciting than usual. On Wednesday, the campaign was well short of the 10,198 signatures needed to get on the ballot after San Francisco elections officials found that more than 40 percent of the people who signed weren't registered in the city's Eighth Congressional District.
Sheehan's supporters redoubled their efforts to collect enough signatures to beat the 5 p.m. Friday deadline, ultimately turning in more than 17,000 signatures to ensure that she qualified.
"It was a little disconcerting to see all the problems with the signatures," Sheehan said from her Mission Street headquarters, where more than 100 supporters gathered to celebrate. "The last couple of days, I've been checking the registrations myself on the computer."
With her ballot spot guaranteed, Sheehan can focus on the fall campaign, where she will challenge Pelosi from the left, slamming the speaker for refusing to start impeachment proceedings against President Bush and not taking a stronger stance against the war in Iraq.
"The next part is going to be exciting," she said. "I want at least one debate with all four candidates so that Nancy Pelosi has to answer for her record."
Sheehan, a former Vacaville resident who lives in the Mission District, became involved in the anti-war movement in 2004, after her son Casey was killed while serving in Iraq. A year later she founded Gold Star Families for Peace and spoke out against the war in Iraq.
For months, she stayed at "Camp Casey," an area near President Bush's Crawford, Texas, ranch where she and other peace activists demonstrated against Bush and the war.
Sheehan will be the longest of longshots in her attempt to oust Pelosi, one of the nation's best-known and most powerful Democrats.
While Sheehan said Friday that she has raised more than $300,000 for the race, Pelosi had collected more than $2.3 million by the end of June and had $455,138 in the bank.
Sheehan's campaign also missed the July 15 filing deadline for her most recent federal campaign statement, which Sheehan blamed on the frantic efforts to qualify her campaign for the ballot.
"One of the first things we need to do is hire a professional accountant to deal with those reports," she said.
© 2008 San Francisco Chronicle