- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 28, 2006

ASSOCIATED PRESS

The “Fighting Dems” aren’t a collective powerhouse after all.

For months, the Democratic Party has trumpeted the congressional candidacies of several dozen Democrats who served in the military. Six weeks before the midterm elections, only a few have a fighting chance to win.

The rest lost in the primaries, dropped out, or trail their Republican opponents in fundraising. Many of the Democrats are little-known political novices who don’t have the financial backing of the party’s campaign committees, which buy ads to benefit those they think can win.

Democrats concede that only a few are in competitive races.

“The key point is that we had so many veterans running as Democrats and that veterans were willing to stand up and say that ‘I’m a Democrat and I’m running for office,’” said Karen Finney, a spokeswoman for the Democratic National Committee (DNC). “They understand that our party is committed to our men and women in uniform and that our party has a place for them.”

Republicans also have had only a few of their challengers with military experience end up in hard-fought races.

Democrats and their allies have hailed their former soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines running for Congress. A DNC Web page is devoted to the “Fighting Dems” and boasts that more than 50 veterans are running for Congress as Democrats. But only about a half-dozen are widely considered to have a shot at winning in November.

A dozen Democratic candidates who served in the military appeared yesterday alongside Rep. John P. Murtha, Pennsylvania Democrat, at a press conference sponsored by the Veterans’ Alliance for Security and Democracy, a political action committee.

“I admire their courage,” said Mr. Murtha, a Vietnam veteran and critic of the Bush administration’s Iraq war policies.

Democrats need to gain 15 Republican-held seats to win control of the House and six to do the same in the Senate. Some of the best chances for pickups are a few districts where Democrats with military records are challenging Republicans.

“It’s not like Democrats are going to sweep the field with veterans,” said Gary Jacobson, a congressional scholar at the University of California at San Diego. “But having a smattering of them in a few competitive congressional races helps to remind voters that the war in Iraq has not gone as planned or predicted.”

In House races, Tammy Duckworth, an Army helicopter pilot who lost her legs in Iraq, faces Republican Peter Roskam for an Illinois open seat. Districts in Pennsylvania pit Joe Sestak, a retired Navy vice admiral, against Republican Rep. Curt Weldon; Patrick Murphy, an Iraq war veteran, against Republican Rep. Michael G. Fitzpatrick; and Chris Carney, who is in the Navy Reserve, hopes to oust Republican Rep. Don Sherwood. In Kentucky, Ken Lucas, who served in the Air Force and Air National Guard, is running against Republican Rep. Geoff Davis.

In each of those districts, both the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and the National Republican Congressional Committee are running or planning to air advertisements in the campaign’s final weeks, the signal of a competitive race.

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