- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 7, 2005

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (AP) — Stacey Kennedy-Boccieri, a pregnant mother of two and wife of a state lawmaker, inherited much of her husband’s job while he was overseas with the military: handling constituent calls, running his home legislative office and more.

“I spoke for him at a dinner, which I hate to do,” said Mrs. Kennedy-Boccieri, 31. She later warned her husband, state Rep. John Boccieri, “You owe me big time.”

Mr. Boccieri is among a small group of state lawmakers from across the nation who have juggled life in uniform with politics. Unlike most civilians-turned-soldiers, lawmakers don’t completely leave their jobs behind, mindful of their status as elected officeholders.

They stay in touch with constituents and issues — such as the state budget debate in Ohio — with the help of the Internet, cell phones, relatives, staff and friends.

“Fifteen years ago, 20 years ago it would have been very difficult to be in the legislature and be a reservist and to be called overseas,” Mr. Boccieri said in an interview before giving a speech on the environment at Youngstown State University.

The Denver-based National Conference of State Legislatures said 13 state lawmakers were called to active duty in 2003, the first year of the Iraq war and the only head count by the organization.

House and Senate staffs said no member of Congress has been called to duty in the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. U.S. Rep. Steve Buyer, Indiana Republican, a lawyer in the Army Reserve, was ready to go, but the Pentagon felt his high profile would endanger others.

Mr. Boccieri, 35, a fresh-faced Democrat from New Middletown in northeast Ohio, returned home in April from a four-month rotation as an Air Force Reserve major. He piloted a cargo plane delivering equipment and supplies to the war zone.

Mr. Boccieri has made four transitions from lawmaker to active-duty pilot since February 2004.

The town of 3,556 residents takes his military absences in stride, said Laura Ross, who runs a service station with her husband in New Middletown.

“This community has always been pro-military,” said Miss Ross, a Navy veteran.

There can be limits to keeping in touch long-distance, however.

State Sen. Steve Stivers, a Columbus Republican and lieutenant colonel on one year’s active duty with the Ohio Army National Guard, listened to the governor’s State of the State address overseas until an Internet connection failed. For security reasons, he identified his duty location only as Southwest Asia, which includes the Iraq war theater.

“My mother sometimes covers meetings, and I have lots of friends and supporters who cover events for me,” Mr. Stivers said in an exchange of e-mail with the Associated Press over several months.

When at base camp, he tries to spend an hour or two every night keeping up with constituents and the statehouse — usually via e-mail.

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