- The Washington Times - Monday, April 9, 2007

Duncan Duane Hunter’s goal of winning the San Diego-area congressional seat that his father will vacate after 14 terms has one new, major obstacle: He probably won’t be able to campaign personally.

Mr. Hunter, a 30-year-old Marine who has served two tours in Iraq, last week was recalled to active duty and expects to be in Iraq or Afghanistan when the election to replace his father, Republican presidential aspirant Rep. Duncan Hunter, occurs.

But regardless of where his April 15 deployment orders send the artilleryman, he’s still committed to running and representing his father’s longtime constituents.

“In fact it makes me want to run more than ever,” Mr. Hunter said. “It seems like nobody is listening right now to the conservative side of the war debate. I’m sure a lot of people think they’re speaking the truth when they talk about [the war], but they don’t have the experience.”

Mr. Hunter said growing up he had no ambition to follow the career path of his father, one of the most conservative members of Congress over the past quarter-century.

“I’d help my dad out with his campaigns, but I didn’t like politics,” he said. “I mean, most pastors’ kids don’t become pastors — they end up doing something totally different.”

But while serving in Fallujah, Iraq, in 2004, Mr. Hunter said he had a political epiphany.

“It was in Iraq when I kind of decided then I’d like to keep serving [my country] in a different capacity after my tour was up,” he said. “I kind of had a change of heart about serving in politics.”

Mr. Hunter will enjoy the advantage of sharing a name with his father, who won re-election in November with 65 percent of the vote.

“His dad is very popular — he was going to hold that seat for as long as we wanted,” said Tony Krvaric, chairman of the Republican Party of San Diego County. “So his son’s name recognition is huge. He’ll get by default a lot of votes from people that don’t pay attention much to politics and think they’re voting for his father.”

Sons succeeding their fathers in Congress is not unique. The latest example is Rep. Gus Bilirakis, Florida Republican, who in November won the Tampa, Fla.-area seat that his retiring father, Michael, had held since 1983.

Mr. Hunter downplays the advantage he’ll receive as the son of a presidential candidate and popular congressman.

“I’m going to have to earn the votes and respect of the voters like everybody else,” he said. “It’s just like a promotion — you have to earn it.”

Names aren’t the only similarities between the Hunters. The son says he shares most of his father’s conservative political beliefs, including strong support for the military, national security and building a fence or wall along the Mexican border.

“We don’t see eye to eye on everything, but on the big issues, yes, we’re almost exactly the same,” the younger Mr. Hunter said.

Mr. Hunter said his experience in the Marines also gives him an excellent perspective to serve as a lawmaker during wartime.

“Serving the men and women in the Marine Corps, you see how wonderful they are, and I’d like to go on helping them out,” he said. “I’ve had some interesting experiences over there.”

Whoever survives the June 3, 2008, Republican primary in Southern California’s staunchly conservative 52nd District, home to thousands of active and retired military, is expected to easily win the general election in November.

Mr. Krvaric said as many as a dozen Republicans may file to run.

“There have been so many people waiting for that district to come open,” he said. “Everybody fancies themselves as a congressman; every city council member — everybody.”

With Mr. Hunter’s name recognition and military background, he’s a “picture perfect” candidate to succeed his father, said Patrick Drinan, political science professor at the University of San Diego.

“It’s too early to tell if he’ll win, but it’s his race to lose,” Mr. Drinan said.

Mr. Drinan added that if Mr. Hunter wins the seat and his father fails in his presidential bid, don’t expect the son to turn the seat back to his father.

“Hunter has been in Congress a long time and this would be a way to set up his son” in a political career, Mr. Drinan said.

Mr. Hunter says he will work full time on his campaign until his deployment with the Marines.

“I’ll be working from the ground up and basically taking nothing for granted,” he said. “It’s going to be a tough fight for us to get elected, but we’re to try it out.”

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