The US House speaker, Nancy Pelosi, has rallied grassroots activists, saying the upcoming midterm elections are a fight for democracy, in her first public appearance since the brutal attack on her husband.

“People say to me: ‘What can I do to make you feel better?’ I say: ‘Vote!’” Pelosi told those on the video call on Friday.

“I believe that this race is very winnable,” she said.

Her voice cracked at times as she said of her husband’s recovery: “It’s going to be a long haul.”

Pelosi thanked those on the call for the outpouring of support for Paul Pelosi, who suffered a fractured skull and other injuries after an intruder broke into their San Francisco home late last week and bludgeoned him with a hammer in what authorities say was an intentional and political attack.

The Democratic leader spoke from California, where her husband was released from the hospital late on Thursday.

“What we are doing is not only to win an election, but this is to strengthen our democracy … there is no question that our democracy is on the ballot,” Pelosi said, referring to Tuesday’s midterm elections that will decide which party controls the US Congress.

Paul Pelosi’s alleged attacker, David DePape, is being held without bail on state charges of attempted murder, burglary and elder abuse. DePape’s public defender, Adam Lipson, entered a not guilty plea on his behalf earlier this week and has pledged to vigorously defend him.

In court filings released earlier this week, officials said DePape broke into the home, carrying zip ties, tape and a rope in a backpack. He woke up Paul Pelosi and demanded to talk to “Nancy”, who was out of town. Two officers who raced to the home after Paul Pelosi’s 911 call witnessed DePape hit him in the head with the hammer.



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