Meet the House's Newest Member
Former state Sen. Jackie Speier (D) won a special election Tuesday to replace the late Rep. Tom Lantos (D) in California's 12th district, easily avoiding a runoff by racking up nearly 78 percent of the vote against four other contenders.
Speier, who will likely win a full term in November in this heavily Democratic Bay Area seat, has a background more colorful than those of most House members. Speier is a survivor of the infamous 1978 Jonestown massacre, in which cult leader Jim Jones and more than 900 of his followers committed mass murder/suicide at their compound in the South American country of Guyana. Speier was an aide at the time to Rep. Leo Ryan (D-Calif.), accompanying him to Guyana to investigate the Peoples Temple. They walked into an ambush, and Ryan was killed while Speier was severely wounded by a hail of gunfire. It took nearly a full day for help to arrive.
"I was very lucky,'' Speier recalled to the San Francisco Chronicle in 1998. "I was shot five times and still have two bullets in my body. I could easily have been shot dead."
According to Speier's campaign biography, "those 22 hours of waiting for help to arrive, alone on the tarmac, molded her philosophy, her zest for work and life, and proved to her that no one is guaranteed a tomorrow."
After failing in a 1979 bid to replace Ryan in Congress, Speier went on to serve as a San Mateo County supervisor, then as a state assemblywoman and state senator. Her biography also notes that she has a brown belt in Judo, and she is the co-author of the book, "This Is Not the Life I Ordered: 50 Ways to Keep Your Head Above Water When Life Keeps Dragging You Down."
Speier will be sworn in as the House's newest member on Thursday.
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