Speier to make Congress bid

Former state Sen. Jackie Speier, who survived a hail of bullets in Jonestown and made her political career on the Peninsula for nearly three decades, will announce her candidacy for the U.S. House of Representatives on Sunday.

Speier’s announcement will come 11 days after longtime Democratic Congress member Tom Lantos revealed that he has been diagnosed with esophageal cancer and will not seek a 15th term in the U.S. House of Representatives.

Speier’s former campaign finance manager Christine Krolik confirmed that Speier would announce her intentions to represent California’s 12th Congressional District, which includes southwestern San Francisco and northern San Mateo County.

Speier, 57, was termed out of her state Senate seat in 2006. She had been exploring a run against the political giant for several months, Krolik said last week. Lantos has held his seat since 1981.

“Jackie is making a formal announcement about her future,” her campaign manager Alex Tourk said Wednesday.

Though she built a long political career on the Peninsula, Speier is also known for the harrowing fact-finding trip to Jonestown to investigate allegations of human-rights abuses with congressman Leo Ryan, for whom Speier began her career as a congressional staffer.

Ryan was killed on Nov. 18, 1978, and Speier was injured when followers of the Rev. Jim Jones opened fire on them near the group’s compound in Guyana.

Speier will make her announcement Sunday at noon at Leo Ryan Park in Foster City. If her congressional bid is successful, she will be elected 30 years to the month after the Jonestown massacre.

“She says that event made her fearless,” Krolik said. “And that fearlessness makes her an effective fighter for the people she represents.

At 30, Speier became the youngest person to be elected to the San Mateo Board of Supervisors. She was elected as a state senator in 1998. In 2006, Speier ran unsuccessfully in the Democratic primary for lieutenant governor of California.

Democratic state Sen. Leland Yee, who was elected in November to Speier’s former seat, is also seen as a potential candidate for Lantos’ seat.

On Wednesday, Yee spokesman Adam Keigwin said Yee still had not decided whether to declare his candidacy for the congressional race.

Former county Supervisor Mike Nevin, who ran unsuccessfully against Speier for the state Assembly in 1986 and against Yee for his current state Senate seat, said Speier would be difficult to beat.

“She’s been poised and positioned for this for a long time,” Nevin said. “She’s paid her dues, she’s articulate and she has a fabulous record.”

tbarak@examiner.com

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