By David Dishneau
April 17, 2006
HAGERSTOWN, Md. -- War veteran Andrew J. Duck has gone from Iraq to the political battlefield with his military metaphors intact.
"We need to take the hill back," he says in a commercial produced by Band of Brothers, a group helping Mr. Duck and nine other Democratic congressional candidates across the country who served in Iraq and Afghanistan.
In a recent interview, Mr. Duck, 43, likened those veterans to "friendly units" on a battlefield. And in a speech last month to a group of United Auto Workers in Hagerstown, he talked about his 20 years of military service while campaign workers passed out yellow plastic ducks wearing little combat helmets and camouflage vests.
The intelligence analyst, now a civilian contractor at the Pentagon, counts his war experience as a key weapon in his bid to unseat Republican Rep. Roscoe G. Bartlett. But Mr. Duck acknowledged that his Army credentials won't guarantee victory against the seven-term incumbent in Maryland's heavily Republican 6th District.
"The fact that I'm a veteran gives me credibility, but it's not enough to win," Mr. Duck said.
Political analysts consider the centrist Democrat from Brunswick a long shot against the better-financed Mr. Bartlett, 79, a millionaire physiologist and farmer known for his conservative views.
"Being a veteran of the war -- actually having been there -- shows that you're not a sissy," said Matthew A. Crenson, a professor of political science at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore.
Although that might help counter perceptions that Democrats are soft on terrorism, it likely won't offset Mr. Bartlett's popularity, Mr. Crenson said. Mr. Bartlett got 68 percent of the vote in his 2004 race against Democrat Kenneth T. Bosley, an Air Force veteran.
Mr. Duck contends that many Republicans are unhappy with Mr. Bartlett's support for the Bush administration's deficit war spending. He hopes to attract enough disaffected Republicans and independents to carry him to victory.
Mr. Duck's message follows the party line for the most part. He opposes banning abortion and privatizing Social Security, supports universal access to health care and would vote to reverse the No Child Left Behind Act and relaxed environmental protections.
Mr. Duck's strategies for achieving independence from foreign oil -- a topic on which Mr. Bartlett has become nationally recognized -- include increasing federal support for wind power and mass transit and boosting tax incentives for energy conservation. Both men oppose drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.
Mr. Duck's recipe for Iraq differs from those of both Mr. Bartlett, who backed President Bush after some initial reluctance, and Democratic primary opponent Barry J.C. Kissin, a Frederick lawyer and peace activist who advocates immediate withdrawal from Iraq.
Mr. Duck thinks the war can be won with more international troops and fewer U.S. forces. To bring that about, he said, the U.S. must first demonstrate its commitment to justice by closing the American military prison in Guantanamo Bay, prosecuting any terror suspects in federal courts and opening a congressional investigation of detainee abuse