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Iraq War Veteran Aims to Replace Hyde

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  • Greg Cannon
    http://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
    Message 1 of 1 , Dec 17, 2005
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      http://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
      years.

      ``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
      Iraq.''

      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
      Americans.''

      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.
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