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Now running for office: an army of Iraq veterans

All but one of these 50 or so House hopefuls are in the Democratic Party.

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They call themselves the Band of Brothers, about 50 men - and a few women - all Democrats, all opposed to the Bush administration's handling of Iraq, and all military veterans.

One more thing: They're all running for Congress this year.

Not since 1946 have so many vets from one party come together in a political campaign, they claim. Their wildest dream is to give the Democratic Party the extra edge it needs - by boosting its weak image on defense and patriotism - to end Republican control of the House.

They also know it's a long shot: Many are running against incumbents in safe Republican districts. Many also face competitive primaries against Democratic opponents with more political experience and access to money.

Among the Democratic vet candidates, 10 have served in either Afghanistan or the current Iraq war, or both. Only one - Maj. Tammy Duckworth of Illinois, who is competing for the seat of retiring Republican Henry Hyde - was recruited by the national Democratic Party. Political handicappers give her the best shot at making it to Washington of all the Democratic vets running. Handicappers also mention Patrick Murphy of Pennsylvania - an Iraq vet trying to unseat a first-term Republican, Mike Fitzpatrick, in a Democratic-leaning district - as having potential, though fundraising has been slow.

The only other Democratic Iraq war vet with a national political profile, Paul Hackett of Ohio, dropped out of his US Senate race Feb. 14 under pressure from party leaders. They wanted to avoid a costly primary and instead steered Mr. Hackett back to a second try at the House seat he almost won last year. His surprise near-victory in a special election for a presumed safe Republican seat earned him national notice - and may have inspired other Democratic war vets to jump into politics.

Mike Lyon, who launched the Band of Brothers political action committee in December, has found the going tough. He's raised only $40,000 so far.

"If resources continue to flow the same way, not many [will win] - I'm being frank," says Mr. Lyon, who is based in Richmond, Va. "But if we can go out and build awareness about their campaigns and provide resources to level the playing field for the November general [election], then I think a lot of these guys will be competitive. We're still getting the lay of the land."

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