Nancy Pelosi is coming clean in a new book and revealing the dirty trick she played on Republicans to win her first Congressional election. Pelosi was not well-known when Rep. Sala Burton (D-CA) died in 1987 and a special election was held to fill California’s 5th congressional district’s seat.
It is not a stretch to say that if Nancy Pelosi lost this election her political career would have been over before it began or would have looked much different than it eventually did. Usually, when you lose your first election you don’t get another chance.
Now, Pelosi had a lot of money behind her so as long as her husband was on board she could have thrown more money at her problem in the next election, but we will never know because she played a trick on GOP voters in San Francisco and they fell for it and the rest is history.
Pelosi, according to a book excerpt, was in a tight race in the special election so she sent out mailers to registered Republicans in her district with elephant logos on them to get them to vote for her and swing the election her way.
The story gets much better. What did she say in those mailers? She criticized efforts to raise taxes and argued that she, Nancy Pelosi, would hold the line and oppose any income tax hikes if elected to Congress.
“The individual tax burden is too high,” the mailer said. “We need a representative who will fight all efforts to raise the personal income tax.”
But it was Pelosi’s overtures to Republicans in San Francisco that may have put her over the top. She literally blasted out mailers to registered Republicans in the San Francisco district, urging them to vote for her over Britt. Page wrote:
Pelosi had also made a quiet and crucial appeal for GOP support. Her campaign had drafted a letter labeled ‘Republican voter alert’ and decorated it with the party’s familiar elephant logo to mail to Republicans in the district.
The message was a risky one that could inflame Democrats, if they heard about it. Local reporters covering the race heard that Nancy Pelosi was leery about sending it, that Paul Pelosi gave the final go-ahead. The signatures on the letter included George Christopher, the last Republican who had been elected mayor of San Francisco, nearly a quarter century earlier.
The letter, according to Page’s book, urged Republicans to pick Pelosi because it argued she was the lesser of two evils between her and Britt.
“It is clear that the next member of Congress from San Francisco will be a Democrat,” the letter read, according to Page’s book. “In a close election, we as Republicans have the ability to decide who our member of Congress will be.”
The letter, according to Page, also wrote to GOP voters that Pelosi “will provide our city with the type of balanced representation that is long overdue.”
Page summed up the Pelosi GOP mailer message more succinctly in her own words “The message: If a Democrat was inevitably going to win, why not back the Democrat they liked most—or, put another way, disliked least?”
It was not the only such message Pelosi delivered to more Republican or conservative voters to try to get them to back her for the seat over Britt.
“Another campaign mailer sent by the Pelosi campaign to the more conservative neighborhoods in the district sounded almost Reaganesque,” Page wrote.
In it, Pelosi’s campaign said she would fight against tax hikes. “The individual tax burden is too high,” the mailer said. “We need a representative who will fight all efforts to raise the personal income tax.”
The push by Pelosi to get Republicans to vote for her ended up being critical, and successful, Page wrote:
When the ballots were counted, Britt led Pelosi by wide margins in the most heavily Democratic precincts—in Noe Valley by 1,335 votes, in Mission by 1,273 votes, in Upper Market by an overwhelming 4,027 votes. Turnout had spiked in Upper Market, a largely gay neighborhood.
But Pelosi had swamped Britt in outlying neighborhoods—in Sunset by 3,773 votes, in Outer Mission by 3,172 votes, West of Twin Peaks by 2,932. That was enough, barely, to win. She defeated Harry Britt by fewer than 4,000 votes, 36 percent to 32 percent.
That made her the Democratic candidate in the runoff, for a district that was more than three-to-one Democratic. In other words, Nancy Pelosi prevailed in her first election to Congress thanks to Republican votes.
Pelosi represented California’s fifth congressional district for her first few terms in Congress. She later switched to the 8th district for two decades, before finally ending up in California’s 12th district, where has been for the last several years.