U.S. News

Survivor of Jonestown attack wins Californian election

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - Democrat Jackie Speier, a former U.S. congressional aide who was attacked during a 1978 visit to the Guyana cult compound of Rev. Jim Jones, was elected on Tuesday to finish the term of the late Tom Lantos, a California lawmaker who died of cancer in February.

Speier, 57, won 78 percent of the vote in the special election in the U.S. congressional district that stretches from South San Francisco to Palo Alto, election officials reported.

Speier was shot five times and left for dead after the attack by followers of Jones at an airstrip in Jonestown, Guyana, while accompanying her boss, U.S. Representative Leo Ryan, who was killed in the raid.

Ryan and Speier were investigating allegations that members of his San Francisco-area district who had joined Jones’ doomsday cult, the Peoples Temple, had been kidnapped and taken to his jungle compound known as Jonestown.

The shooting touched off the mass suicide by more than 900 cult members at the compound who, according to news reports at the time, drank Kool-Aid laced with cyanide and sedatives.

Speier waited 22 hours for help to arrive, according to her Web site. She later was elected to the San Mateo County board of supervisors in California and served in both chambers of the California legislature.

Lantos, also a Democrat, had endorsed Speier two weeks before his death on February 11 at age 80 after 27 years in the House of Representatives. The Hungarian-born Lantos escaped from a forced-labor camp after the occupation of his country by the Nazis.

Reporting by Philipp Gollner, editing by Philip Barbara