OAKLAND, Calif. – Voters view Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Calif., as either a traitor or a hero for being the lone voter in Congress to oppose a military response to the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
While her vote may not have changed the course of history, it has changed the course of her political career for the better.
"As a woman, as an African-American, and most important, as the only vote against President Bush, [Lee] has become a symbol to many of conscience and conviction," said Susan Estrich, a law professor at the University of Southern California and a Fox News political analyst.
"That has attracted the kind of celebrity support and endorsements — money — that Barbara Lee couldn't have hoped to get before Sept. 11," Estrich added.
Lee recently told supporters that she is in good spirits and is continuing with her congressional work.
Lee's vote against military action has practically guaranteed her re-election in California's Ninth Congressional District, located in northern Alameda County on the eastern shore of San Francisco Bay and including the traditionally "progressive" cities of Berkeley and Oakland.
Although Lee faced death threats and hate mail after her controversial congressional vote, she also received accolades and donations. Singer Bonnie Raitt and actor Bill Cosby are among the celebrities who've helped boost Lee's national profile and political war chest.
Records show Lee has raked in nearly $178,000 since June, more than twice her normal take.
Lee refused to speak with Fox News for this story, but her Web site lists a series of measures she supported in response to the attacks.
Critics, however, are blasting the congresswoman for capitalizing on her unpopular position, and using her newfound fame to raise money she doesn't need to win re-election in her safe district.
If some of Lee's money ends up funding other Democratic candidates, Republicans promise to make it an issue.
"As we have young men and women who are even at this very moment half a world away, some of whom have died in the last couple of weeks," said Rob Stutzman, a spokesman for the California Republican Party, "it's particularly distasteful, and shameful that Congresswoman Lee would be out there raising money upon her vote against the war."
Claudia Cowan currently serves as Fox News Channel's (FNC) San Francisco-based correspondent. She joined the network in 1998.