Iraq war veteran running for Congress as a Progressive

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(Host) An Iraq war veteran is challenging Congressman Peter Welch, saying the Democratic incumbent has failed to live up to his promise to end the war.

Former Army Specialist Thomas Hermann announced his candidacy today. Hermann is running as a Progressive Party candidate.

VPR’s John Dillon reports:

(Dillon) Thomas Hermann says he joined the Army five years ago, believing in the mission in Iraq. He says he had not planned to run for political office when his tour ended.

(Hermann) “I had an awakening in Iraq, where a lot of my points of views got drastically changed.”

(Dillon) Hermann said that during his 16-month tour, he concluded that the Iraqi people were justified in defending their country against the U.S. invasion.

He says he’s now running for Congress because, he says, the Democratic majority has failed to end the war, and hold President Bush accountable.

(Hermann) “And there’s more. This is a campaign to empower all citizens to participate in our democracy. We will show that the doors of Congress can be swung open once again for the people.”

(Dillon) Hermann is 29 and has never held political office. He’s originally from Florida and moved to Vermont in March. He now lives in Barre where he works on a farm.

(Hermann) “What’s the alternative, vote for a person that keeps voting to fund the war, not impeaching, following the Constitution? No, the answer to it is getting into the political career and engaging everyday citizens to support you.”

(Dillon) Hermann is not a complete political neophyte. He’s listed as a Vermont volunteer on the Ralph Nader for President Web site.

No Republican has emerged to challenge Welch, who is now running for re-election after one term. The congressman’s opposition is coming from the left side of the political spectrum

Some anti-war activists are critical of Welch because they say he’s voted to support defense spending. Hermann was introduced by Dan DeWalt of Newfane, an activist who led an impeachment drive against President Bush.

(DeWalt) “Two years ago, when Peter Welch was running for Congress, he told us he was going to do everything to end the war…. The first thing the Democratic Congress did when they got to Washington was fund the escalation of the war. The second thing they did was re-fund it.”

(Dillon) Welch’s campaign manager, Carolyn Dwyer, says the congressman remains committed to ending the war.

(Dwyer) “He shares the frustration of many who want our troops out of Iraq. But when given the opportunity, Congressman Welch has voted in opposition to keeping our troops in Iraq and in favor of a timeline for withdrawal.”

(Dillon) And Dwyer says Welch has earned strong support in the state.

(Dwyer) “What has been clear, I think mainly demonstrated by the fact Republicans chose not to field a candidate, is that the majority of Vermonters are very pleased with the work he’s done in Vermont, that he’s been very responsive to their needs, very in touch with the issues facing Vermonters, and has been an effective advocate for them in Washington. ‘’

(Dillon) Welch also faces a challenger from Democrat Craig Hill in the September primary. Liberty Union candidate Jane Newton is running, as well.

For VPR News, I’m John Dillon in Montpelier.

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