On the heels of Operation Iraqi Freedom veteran Paul Hackett’s slim-margin loss in Ohio’s Second Congressional District last summer, the Democrats are attempting to use a war vets’ strategy as part of their plan to regain the majority in the House of Representatives they lost in 1994. The linked article, though dated, indicates that 35 veterans are running for Congress, and it appears they are attempting to gain seats they currently do not hold.
One such veteran who has already won a Democrat congressional primary in Illinois is Tammy Duckworth.
Now let me be absolutely clear here: Tammy Duckworth is a bona fide war hero who has earned every honor she has received, and then some. Her recovery, after losing both legs and seriously damaging one arm, and the way she carries on in her everyday life after rehabilitation, are nothing short of inspirational.
There’s only one problem: Tammy Duckworth does not live in the district she wishes to represent (noted near the end at link). She also does not plan to move in — ever. Though legal (which it shouldn’t be), it should be unacceptable to all who live in Illinois’ Sixth District.
Duckworth was persuaded by the national party to run in the 6th District, which becomes open this year because of prolife legend Henry Hyde’s retirement, over an experienced and competitive candidate who had paid her dues:
The national party’s enthusiasm for Duckworth wasn’t matched, at least initially, among local Democrats, who noted she lives three miles outside the district. The Constitution requires only that representatives live in the state, and Duckworth says she is “emotionally attached” to her house, which was modified for her wheelchair.
Before Duckworth got in the race, local Democrats had backed Christine Cegelis, a computer consultant who won 44% of the vote against Hyde in 2004. But Cegelis has raised little money and lacks Duckworth’s “star power,” University of Illinois-Springfield political scientist Kent Redfield says.
“At least” Duckworth’s bona fides as an Illinois resident are okay. This 2005 article on Duckworth’s heroics, written before political ambition entered the picture, treats her like a native daughter–of Hawaii, which she is, having lived there until she was 21. But she has validly called Illinois her home during most of the 15 years since.
Despite an endorsement from the AFL-CIO, which had endorsed her opponent Christine Cegelis two years earlier, and national party support galore, Ms. Duckworth’s candidacy is not getting a warm reception from all quarters in the Democrat Party, including from longtime activist Alexander Cockburn (HT The Southern Journal blog):
We’re heading into a year when the Democrats could be making hay, by actually doing the right thing. In 2005 is a pointer, they never will. The latest evidence is that Rahm Emanuel, in charge of selecting Democratic Congressional candidates for 2006, is choosing millionaires and fence-straddlers on the war. He shunned Christine Cegelis, who nearly beat sixteen-termer Henry Hyde in 2004, and whom Illinois polls show to be a popular contender to succeed Hyde. But Cegelis has the disadvantage in Emanuel’s eyes of not being very rich and of agreeing with John Murtha on immediate withdrawal of US troops from Iraq. Emanuel picks Tammy Duckworth, who embodies the cynicism of the “Democratic strategists,” being a double-amputee woman Iraq veteran who is not from the district, has a hot-air position on the war and is thought to espouse a “pro-business/centrist platform”.
Cegelis was no pushover, and Duckworth barely survived the primary, as this narrative from an Evans-Novak e-mail indicates (also notice some similarities here to Ohio’s Sherrod Brown-Paul Hackett US Senate race situation earlier this year, which are bolded):
Illinois-6: This race, as we predicted, was much closer than anyone had expected. After weeks of media hype in her favor, Tammy Duckworth (D), the choice of the national party and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, prevailed just as we thought she would. But despite Duckworth’s compelling life story (she lost both legs serving in Iraq) and all the money and endorsements the national party could throw at her (including the support of DCCC Chairman Rahm Emanuel (Ill.) and Illinois Democratic Sens. Dick Durbin and Barack Obama), plus at times ridiculously fawning attention from the media, she underperformed mightily.
Democrats in the district resented Duckworth’s coronation by the party establishment — Duckworth does not live in the district — and her grassroots support proved weak. Christine Cegelis (D), the unsuccessful 2004 nominee, came within 1,100 votes of a major upset by relying on a strong ground game despite money shortage that top Democrats had induced by encouraging donors to freeze her out.
In her concession, Cegelis carefully avoided endorsing Duckworth, instead subtly complaining about national and state Democrats’ conspiracy to defeat her.
Her weak showing in the primary, Cegelis’s bitterness (how do you “subtly” complain about a conspiracy?), and the much larger vote total achieved by the Republican candidate in an uncontested race all appear to portend a loss for Duckworth in the general election.
But that obscures the larger point, and I would say this if it were Audie Murphy and not Tammy Duckworth I was discussing: She has no business running for Congress in a district in which she has no plans to live. As far as I’m concerned, it’s too late for her to change her mind and move in for politically expedient reasons if she somehow concludes that it’s necessary if she is to have a chance of winning. “At least” Hillary Clinton pretended to live in New York for about a year in her 2000 Senate run. “At least” Republican Bob McEwen bought a condo in Ohio’s Second District one month before the June 2005 Special Primary campaign began (this of course was not good enough for many of us, and ignores other much larger problems discovered in 2005 and during his second failed try in 2006) .
Leave it to Rahm Emanuel and the Democrats to push the envelope all the way to finding out whether not even being a district resident can work. If Illinois’ 6th District voters have any sense, it won’t.
If anyone is aware of any current congresspersons who don’t have residences in their districts, or any other non-resident candidates in this election cycle, I would appreciate learning about it. E-mail me directly. In my opinion, none deserve election, or re-election, and it should be obvious by now that I don’t care which party they represent.
UPDATE: Well, if this doesn’t beat all — in addition to not being able to submit a petition with 50 valid signatures on it and a list of other sins and foolishness that Lincoln Logs has been tracking for months, I now learn from an e-mailer that Ohio 6th District Democrat Congressional nominee Charlie Wilson doesn’t live in the district. Actual district residents should be insulted that Charlie apparently can’t find a domicile up to his standards anywhere in the District’s thousands of square miles.