A Republican elected to Congress from San Francisco? A pro-life conservative taking out the No.1 House Democrat, Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi? Come on!
That’s the typical reaction of pundits and pols to Mike DeNunzio, Republican nominee for Congress against the San Francisco Democrat who would be speaker if her party takes control of the House. Although DeNunzio, former U.S. Army reservist and San Francisco County GOP chairman, doesn’t predict for a minute he will unseat Pelosi, he quickly notes the merit in his candidacy for conservatives throughout the nation. In his words: “Democrats have made holy wars out of long-shot campaigns against Republican leaders in Congress. They didn’t believe for a minute they were going to defeat Newt Gingrich or Tom DeLay, but they invested in their candidates to tie those GOP leaders up in an election year. So why can’t we make life difficult for their top leader in the House?”
Watching the hard-charging DeNunzio in action, observers talk about how successful he could be if he were running in a more winnable district. The GOP nominee, a graduate of St. John’s University in New York, sports an impressive résumé: military service and party leadership, running the Roman Catholic Archbishop’s Fund for Needy Students, serving on such city boards as the Commission on Aging and Adult Services and the Mayor’s Council to End Homelessness. A living example of the “citizen politician” Ronald Reagan frequently spoke of, DeNunzio’s selfless labor for his community ranges from the Campaign to Save Cable Cars to the Irish-Israeli-Italian Society (which gave him its Outstanding Community Service Award).
In a district that is not exactly warm to conservatives, DeNunzio pulls no punches about his differences with Pelosi (lifetime American Conservative Union rating: 4%): She voted against tax cuts of every kind, he champions tax cuts “because they help working families.” She is pro-abortion across the board and has consistently opposed a ban on partial-birth abortion. He is “strongly pro-life—and proud of it.”
In a district in which the voter registration is heavily against Republicans, the never-say-die DeNunzio team points out that the number of voters in the “decline to state” category is 18% and “other” is 4%. Moreover, in the mayoral election of ’03, Green Party candidate Matt Gonzales actually forced Democrat Gavin Newsom into a run-off and came within 15,000 votes of winning. This year, Green Party U.S. House candidate Krissy Keefer is running hard, pasting Pelosi for her refusal to consider impeachment of George W. Bush and demanding reparations for Iraq for the damage the U.S. caused that country in deposing Saddam Hussein.
The DeNunzio campaign, overseen by veteran Golden State GOP consultant Harvey Hukari, is the first serious Republican effort in the district since 1982. Popular Bay area radio talk show host Melanie Morgan regularly trumpets the Republican’s cause. As the candidate himself promises: “She’ll get the race of her life.”