November 11, 2010
2010: The Year of the Republican Iraq VetBy Kieran Michael Lalor
When the 112th Congress is sworn in, all eight Operation Iraqi Freedom veterans in the House will be Republicans.
This scenario was impossible to imagine just four years ago, when Patrick Murphy (PA-8), a JAG officer with the Army's 82nd Airborne, became the first Iraq vet in Congress. The so-called "Blue Dog" from the Philadelphia suburbs became the Left's point man for cut and run in Iraq and the repeal of the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy, which bars openly gay military personnel.
In his first term, Murphy penned a book with the triumphant title Taking the Hill: From Philly to Baghdad to the United States Congress. After a convincing win in 2008, Murphy was being groomed for a Senate run. But last week he lost a rematch to Mike Fitzpatrick by 54% to 46%.
Also defeated was Democrat John Boccieri (OH-16), an Air Force Major elected in 2008 after serving in both Iraq and Afghanistan. Dogged by his flip-flop from opposing ObamaCare to supporting the health care overall, Boccieri didn't put up much of a fight losing to former Wadsworth, Ohio mayor Jim Renacci 52% to 40%.
Marine Corps infantry officer Duncan D. Hunter (CA-52), who joined the Marines the day after the attacks of 9/11, won the San Diego seat his father held in 2008. Hunter coasted to reelection with nearly two-thirds of the vote. Mike Coffman (CO-6), who resigned as Colorado State Treasurer in 2005 to serve in Iraq as a Marine officer, was also elected in 2008 and easily defended the central Colorado seat on November 2.
Joining the two Marines in the Iraq vet caucus will be five soldiers and an airman.
Allen West (FL-22) served in Iraq as a battalion commander for the Army's 4th Infantry Division. He also served in Afghanistan, where he trained Afghan officers. After putting up a tough fight in 2008 and earning 45% of the vote against Rep. Ron Klein, West kept campaigning into the 2010 cycle, becoming the top fundraising challenger in the country. With a big war chest, nearly four years of tireless campaigning, and an inspiring speaking style, West shellacked Klein, winning 54%-45%.
Another unsuccessful 2008 Iraq vet candidate who was able to accomplish the mission in 2010 is Steve Stivers (OH-15). Called to active duty in October 2004 while serving in the Ohio Senate, Stivers served in Iraq, Kuwait, Qatar, and Djibouti as a battalion commander.
Thought to be the winner on election night 2008, Stivers ultimately lost a recount to Rep. Mary Jo Kilroy. No recount was necessary after round two as Stivers rolled to victory 54%-46%.
In 2006, Army JAG officer Tim Griffin was assigned to the 101st Airborne Division. He served in Mosul, Iraq as a member of the 172nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team Brigade Operational Law Team, for which he was awarded the Combat Action Badge. From 2006-2007, he served as U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Arkansas. Griffin won the seat vacated by Democrat Rick Snyder with 58% of the vote against Democrat nominee Joyce Elliot, the Majority Leader of the Arkansas Senate.
Dr. Joe Heck (NV-2), a tactical doctor with the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department SWAT team and an osteopathic physician, serves as a colonel in the United States Army Reserve, where he commands a Medical Readiness Support Group. Heck served as a combat surgeon in Iraq.
A state senator from 2004 to 2008, Heck was originally a gubernatorial candidate but shifted his sites to a congressional race against incumbent Rep. Dana Titus. In a closely watched race for the Las Vegas-based seat, Heck defeated the freshman Democrat 48% to 47%, with 2,000 of the 267,000 votes cast separating the two candidates.
In New York's Hudson Valley, retired Army Col. Chris Gibson (NY-20) challenged Rep. Scott Murphy, who won the seat in a 2009 special election after Kirsten Gillibrand was appointed to fill the U.S. Senate seat of Hillary Clinton, who was appointed Secretary of State.
Gibson is a veteran of 24 years of active military service, including four combat tours in Iraq. He recently commanded the 82nd Airborne Division's 2nd Brigade Combat Team during humanitarian efforts in Haiti. The former West Point instructor didn't announce his candidacy until April but managed to win 55%-45% in the district where there are nearly 70,000 more Republicans than Democrats.
Finally, in Illinois' 11th District, Air Force pilot Adam Kinzinger took on freshman Rep. Debbie Halvorson. When not flying for Uncle Sam, Kinzinger is something of an amateur crime fighter, who saved the life of a young woman violently attacked by a knife-wielding assailant. The 32-year-old former Mclean County board member saw the woman being assaulted, wrested the knife away from the perpetrator, and pinned him to the ground until the police arrived.
Kinzinger won a decisive 57%-to-43% victory and was just named to the GOP's transition team.
The historic election of these six remarkable men doubles the number of Iraq vets in the House. The presence of this critical mass combined with the fact that they are all of the same party will no doubt have a significant impact on the conduct of the Global War on Terror and shape all areas of Department of Defense policy.
Kieran Michael Lalor is a Marine Corps veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom and the founder of the conservative political action committee Iraq Veterans for Congress. He is also the author of the newly released book This Recruit: A First Hand Account of Marine Corps Boot Camp Written While Knee Deep in the Mayhem of Parris Island (www.thisrecruit.com).