Thursday, March 23, 2006

Iraq war veteran wins Congress primary race

Iraq war veteran wins Congress primary race
By Michael Conlon

CHICAGO (Reuters) - An Iraq war veteran who lost both legs in the conflict narrowly won her bid to run for the U.S. House of Representatives as a Democrat in a district held by Republicans for 32 years, returns showed on Wednesday.

Tammy Duckworth, 37, is among several Iraq veterans running for the U.S. Congress this year in a challenge to President George W. Bush's Iraq policy and the traditional perception that Democrats are weaker on national security issues.

With 98 percent of the ballots counted she squeezed out a win, holding a 1,080-vote lead over her closest opponent for the right to face Republican Peter Roskam, a state senator, for whom Vice President Dick Cheney made a campaign appearance.

She will be a long shot in November to take the seat in a heavily Republican suburban Chicago district being given up by Rep. Henry Hyde, who is retiring after 32 years in Congress.

Duckworth, a former officer in the Illinois Army National Guard, was wounded in 2004 when a rocket-propelled grenade hit the helicopter she was piloting. She is one of nine Iraq war veterans running for Congress this year. Eight are Democrats and the ninth is a Republican running in Texas who backs the Bush administration over the war.

Duckworth has argued that the decision to invade Iraq in 2003 was wrong and that the administration has mismanaged the war. She was backed by big name Democrats, including Illinois' two U.S. senators, Dick Durbin and Barack Obama.

Voters in Tuesday's primary also chose the state's Republican treasurer to face first-term Democratic Gov. Rod Blagojevich in November's race for the governorship, returns showed.

Judy Baar Topinka, the only Republican holding statewide office, beat four challengers to win a primary contest slowed by the introduction of new touch screen and scanned paper ballot voting systems.

Blagojevich, the state's first Democratic governor in a quarter century, had only token opposition in seeking nomination for a second term.