Iraq veteran clears path to run for US Congress

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The Independent US

Tammy Duckworth, the best known of at least a dozen Iraq and Afghanistan veterans who are running for Congress, has cleared the way for a November showdown by narrowly winning a hard-fought Democratic primary in her Illinois district.

With all but six of the 526 precincts counted, Ms Duckworth was declared the winner, with 44 per cent of the vote, compared to 40 per cent for her opponent Christine Cegelis.

Ms Duckworth, 38, a former Army Major who lost both her legs in a November 2004 grenade attack in Iraq, will now be her party's candidate in its bid to capture the state's sixth district, long the fiefdom of a Republican lawmaker, Henry Hyde, who has held the seat since 1975.

Almost all the war veterans running for the first time in 2006 are Democrats. As candidates, they will help the party criticise the war without appearing unpatriotic.

On the campaign trail, Major Duckworth has argued the US must stay in Iraq long enough to give the country a chance of laying the foundations of a stable democracy. But she says the decision to invade was a mistake and that the post-war occupation has been grossly mishandled.

A political novice, she raised a more than $500,000 (£250,000) of campaign funds - thanks in good measure to the support of high profile national figures in the Democratic party, including Hillary Clinton, the 2004 White House candidate John Kerry, and Barack Obama, Illinois' own superstar junior senator.

In the main election, Major Duckworth will face Peter Roskam, Mr Hyde's chosen successor and a social conservative who last week collected $200,000 at a fundraiser attended by Vice-President Dick Cheney. Democrats need a net gain of 15 seats to retake control of Congress.

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