1328Iraq War Veteran Aims to Replace Hyde
- Dec 17, 2005http://www.guardian.co.uk/uslatest/story/0,1282,-5487297,00.html
Iraq War Veteran Aims to Replace Hyde
Sunday December 18, 2005 1:46 AM
By MIKE COLIAS
Associated Press Writer
CHICAGO (AP) - A little over a year after a
rocket-propelled grenade ripped into her helicopter
cockpit over Iraq and shattered her legs, Army Major
L. Tammy Duckworth is out of the hospital and
preparing to take on a new challenge: Congress.
The 37-year-old pilot was expected to announce Sunday
afternoon that she will enter the race to replace
retiring U.S. Rep. Henry Hyde.
Even though she's a Democrat, Duckworth believes her
``leadership and ability to make tough choices'' will
resonate with voters in Chicago's affluent western
suburbs, represented by the conservative Hyde for 32
``As a soldier, when I make a decision it could
actually mean that somebody might get shot at or
killed,'' she told The Associated Press on Saturday.
``I look around and see that the Bush administration
has made some really bad choices when it comes to
Political analysts expect Democrats to shine the
spotlight on Duckworth and other Iraq war veterans
running for office to send a message nationally that
the party can be strong on defense and national
security, even as many criticize Bush's handling of
the Iraq war.
``It's awfully tough to attack someone who's served
and sacrificed as much as she has,'' said Larry
Sabato, a political science professor at the
University of Virginia.
Duckworth has degrees in political science and
international affairs and describes herself as a
longtime political junkie, ``one of these nerdy people
who sits around watching C-SPAN all day long.''
The idea to run blossomed this year after she attended
the State of the Union address as a guest of Sen.
Richard Durbin, D-Ill., and later testified before
veteran affairs committees on Capitol Hill.
``I have an opportunity here, because people are
actually listening to me because I'm an injured vet,''
said Duckworth, who uses a wheelchair and prosthetic
legs. ``That's great. I'll let you look at my legs all
day long if you listen to me gripe on about how we
need to have affordable health care for all
Duckworth says her campaign will focus on health care,
education and improving the U.S. economy's position
globally, but the war is sure to take center stage.
She does not favor an immediate troop withdrawal but
prefers setting ``benchmarks'' for leaving Iraq, such
as pulling out U.S. battalions one-for-one as Iraqi
security battalions take over. Privately, she opposed
starting the war.
Duckworth's likely opponents approach her candidacy
cautiously, praising her military service while noting
her lack of political experience.
``Just a remarkable person - great citizen solider,''
said Republican state Sen. Chris Lauzen, who supports
GOP candidate and state Sen. Peter Roskam.
``Isn't the lady going through enough right now, and
you're going to send her through this tough
campaign?'' Lauzen said. ``What is the basis of her
appeal? Courage. I don't think that necessarily
qualifies her to go to Congress.''
Other Democrats in the March 21 primary complain that
national party leaders are meddling, noting Duckworth
doesn't even live in the district. Duckworth, who
lives two miles outside the district, thinks voters
will look beyond that issue.
Her opponents have a head start when it comes to
fundraising because Duckworth had to delay her
candidacy until her release from active duty, which
was granted Wednesday. But Democrat Christine Cegelis,
a businesswoman and candidate, sees other benefits.
``It's going to add some visibility, more national
attention, to the race,'' Cegelis said.
AP reporter Dennis Conrad in Washington, D.C.,
contributed to this report.