SAN FRANCISCO - "Peace Mom" Cindy Sheehan may finally have found some in her long-shot independent challenge to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
When the anti-war activist speaks in California's 8th District, no one boos or shouts "Traitor!" or "Commie!" No one kicks her out for being disruptive. She doesn't get arrested.
"Oh, this is a lot easier than what I was doing before," Sheehan said, riding back from one of three recent rallies. "I'm home almost every night now."
The campaign trail, rather than the Senate gallery or President Bush's Texas ranch, is where Sheehan, 51, has chosen to take her message and to honor the memory of a son slain in Iraq. Here, Sheehan can make her point simply by making the claim that she wants a seat in Congress.
And not just anybody's. She wants Pelosi's, because the 11-term congresswoman has led the House for two years without making good on a promise to end the war.
In fact, the audience clapped generously at a recent speech at San Francisco State University when Sheehan took the stage, cracked a wide grin and talked about the harsh reaction she has generated.
"You know, it's not easy having most of the country hate you," Sheehan said. "I know ..."
Her camp-outs, protests and arrests on behalf of her 21-year-old son, Casey, galvanized the peace movement and made Sheehan ubiquitous at anti-war rallies around the world.
However much sympathy and support she attracted, her methods also sparked a backlash.
Critics called Sheehan a strident spotlight-grabber. They even accused her of dishonoring her son.
Not Pelosi, a Democrat in a Democrat's town who tends to win elections with 80 percent of the vote. So little a threat does Sheehan's candidacy pose for the speaker that Pelosi has done little to acknowledge it beyond a tepid statement of respect.
Still, Sheehan sees opportunity. Congress has never been more unpopular. She hopes disappointment with Pelosi will send disaffected voters her way.
Her office, lined with photos of her children, all in their 20s, and her 4-month-old grandson, Jonah, is full of awards for speaking out against the war when it was unpopular to do so.
"As much as I had a lot of great experiences and met a lot of great people then," she said, "I was never happy. I would have given all of it to have Casey back."
Her eyes watered. "Now," she said, "I think it's OK to enjoy life again. My grandson has made me realize that."