WASHINGTON – They served the country in fatigues and combat boots,and now they plan to serve in suits and ties.
Democratic candidates running for seats in two of Colorado's congressional districts – Jay Fawcett and Bill Winter – pledged Wednesday to use their military experience to “clean the corruption” from the nation's capital.
They were among nearly 40 veterans running for Congress who braved freezing temperatures to rally on the National Mall to show Republican opponents that Democrats aren't anti-military. The members of Veterans for a Secure America represented 22 states.
Bill Winter,a Marine Corps and Navy veteran hoping to unseat suburban Denver incumbent Rep. Tom Tancredo,R-Colo.,held up his dog tags and pledged to fight for the 6th district. Tancredo was holding his own rally against U.S. immigration a mere three blocks away.
“People in District 6 ought to be asking,‘Where's Tom? Where's our representative?'” he said in an interview. “He's out there running for the presidency,pushing his own agenda and his own ego-driven future.”
But Tancredo's office dismissed Winter as a serious candidate and said the overwhelmingly Republican district has always stood firmly behind Tancredo because he represents it well. Spokesman Will Adams pointed out the House's recent immigration reform legislation as evidence of Tancredo's dedication to his constituents.
Fawcett,a Gulf War veteran,is running in Colorado's 5th District,south and west of Denver,now held by Republican Rep. Joel Hefley.
Neither Tancredo nor Hefley is a military veteran.
“Behind me,at the end of this Mall,is the people's House,” said Fawcett,an Air Force Academy graduate and Gulf War veteran,as he pointed to the Capitol. “It's time to clean that House.”
The Democratic candidates said that,in the midst of the Republican Party scandal,it is time to grab vulnerable seats in Congress. Veteran and former Democratic Sen. Max Cleland of Georgia gave an emotional speech rife with military metaphors to the group,which he referred to as a “band of brothers.”
“You are few in number and up against overwhelming odds,but you are all tough enough to take on the task of running for office,” he said,adding a quote from Shakespeare: “You few,you happy few,you band of brothers.”
Not to be left out,the only female veteran present,candidate Mishonda Baldwin of Maryland,took the stage. Three women veterans are running for office.
“I am proud to be the one sister to stand with my band of brothers,” said Baldwin,who served in Desert Storm. “We need candor,courage and commitment.”
Winter,who was raised in Littleton,said he learned all about commitment as a Marine. He recalled one instance when a comrade lost a leg in an explosion,and Winter had to give him medical attention and carry him to safety.
“I realized that I can make a difference,I can save lives,” Winter said. “Some people may feel overwhelmed in my position with the battle I have ahead of me,but as a Marine you get a mission. I'm going to accomplish my mission.”