Linda Feldmann, Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor /
February 22, 2006
They call themselves the Band of Brothers, about 50 men -
and a few women - all Democrats, all opposed to the Bush
administration's handling of Iraq, and all military veterans.
One more thing: They're all running for Congress this year.
Not since 1946 have so many vets from one party come
together in a political campaign, they claim. Their wildest
dream is to give the Democratic Party the extra edge it needs
- by boosting its weak image on defense and patriotism -
to end Republican control of the House.
They also know it's a long shot: Many are running against
incumbents in safe Republican districts. Many also face
competitive primaries against Democratic opponents with
more political experience and access to money.
Among the Democratic vet candidates, 10 have served
in either Afghanistan or the current Iraq war, or both.
Only one - Maj. Tammy Duckworth of Illinois, who is
competing for the seat of retiring Republican Henry
Hyde - was recruited by the national Democratic Party
Political handicappers give her the best shot at making
it to Washington of all the Democratic vets running.
Handicappers also mention Patrick Murphy of
Pennsylvania - an Iraq vet trying to unseat a first-term
Republican, Mike Fitzpatrick, in a Democratic-leaning
district - as having potential, though fundraising has
The only other Democratic Iraq war vet with a national
political profile, Paul Hackett of Ohio, dropped out of his
US Senate race Feb. 14 under pressure from party leaders.
They wanted to avoid a costly primary and instead steered
Mr. Hackett back to a second try at the House seat he
almost won last year. His surprise near-victory in a special
election for a presumed safe Republican seat earned him
national notice - and may have inspired
other Democratic war vets to jump into politics.
Mike Lyon, who launched the Band of Brothers political
action committee in December, has found the going
tough. He's raised only $40,000 so far.
"If resources continue to flow the same way, not many
[will win] - I'm being frank," says Mr. Lyon, who is based in
Richmond, Va. "But if we can go out and build awareness
about their campaigns and provide resources to level the
playing field for the November general [election], then I
think a lot of these guys will be competitive. We're still
getting the lay of the land."
Analysts agree that the novice candidates have their work
cut out for them. They have to develop a full congressional
agenda, campaigning ability, and networking skills that
show they're ready for prime time. Being a Johnny-one-
note against the war isn't enough, say political observers.
"They're running for Congress, not commander in chief,"
says Amy Walter, a specialist in House races for the
nonpartisan Cook Political Report. "Obviously, Iraq's
an important issue, but at the same time, they need be
able to talk about health care, the economy, gas prices."
The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee,
which recruits and helps candidates the party believes
can win, has not made a special effort to recruit Iraq war
vets, says spokeswoman Sarah Feinberg. "What we have
done is to recruit the best possible candidate in every district,"
But as the election year unfolds - including Republican
-dominated scandals and low presidential popularity -
analysts don't rule out the potential for a
national wave that could make some usually safe
seats competitive. GOP control of the House remains
slim, with 230 Republicans, 202 Democrats, 1
independent, and two vacancies. "The Democrats' best
chance of winning a majority is to expand the playing
field beyond the three dozen or so [seats] that have
been in play in recent years," says Rhodes
Cook, an independent political analyst. Candidates
with the Iraq credential could end up being "a twofer
for the Democrats. Not only do they have the goodwill
of the recent Iraq war vet, but [they] also help
offset a party weakness, which is being kind of
light on defense."
The Republicans have one Iraq war vet running for
Congress, Van Taylor of Texas, who is trying to knock
off Rep. Chet Edwards (D). Carl Forti, spokesman for
the National Republican Campaign Committee, says 38
Republicans with military experience are running for
Congress. When asked if any of the Democratic vets
pose a threat to any Republicans, his answer is simple:
Still, "being a vet is a good résumé item to have," says
Mr. Forti. "It brings a certain level of approval."
[What does is matter if vets are Democrat, Libertarian
, Independent, Republican, or Green party? It doesn't.
What matters is that our leaders know the value of
service. Wouldn't you rather have a person who knows
how to lead based on experience and training? Or a
person who tells you he/she can lead based on no
service record whatsoever?]