By the end of the election in 2006, this was one of the top 10 races in the country. Charlie Brown turned dissent against the Iraq war and anger against the corruption of Congressman Doolittle into one of the most amazing stories of 2006. And yet, Charlie Brown ended up 9,000 votes or 3 percent of the vote short from winning.
On a day when Congressman John Doolittle defiantly brushed aside repeated calls from his own party to step aside, it was Charlie Brown who once again stole the show.
Rep. John Doolittle defiantly declared Friday that he will not retire from Congress despite increasing Republican concern that if he runs for a 10th term next year, the seat could fall to Democratic challenger Charlie Brown.
"I will not step aside," Doolittle said in a telephone news conference. "I am running again. Period."
I attended the second of four announcements that Charlie had in his district. The announcement was at the Auburn Airport hanger. Charlie Brown and his wife Jan Brown arrived by small plane and were greeted by his son Jeff and his daughter Stacey.
Jeff has recently returned from his fourth rotation in Iraq with the Air Force. Charlie Brown was greeted as well by a throng of 200 supporters in the midday event in the heart of Doolittle Country in one of the most Republican Counties in the state, Auburn county. And he was greeted with a hero's welcome.
"Thirty Five years ago, I took an oath. I raised my head--and I pledged to faithfully protect and defend the Constitution of the United States. That oath has guided my life ever since that day. That oath took me to the skies above Vietnam and Cambodia, Lebanon, Grenada, Panama and Iraq."He continued:
"That oath echoes in my heart when I heard my own son take it--and again when Jan and I said goodbye to our son Jeff, as he left to serve in Iraq four times in the last three and a half years. And it is that same oath that brings me back here today--to announce my candidacy for the United States Congress."Finally he arrived at the crux of his statement:
"When you raise your hand--you don't swear to defend a political party. You don't promise to protect a special interest or a campaign contributor. You certainly don't pledge to put yourself before your country. You promise to stand up and fight for what's right and good about this nation. You promise to protect our freedoms. You promise to put your life on the line if necessary to stop any nation or any individual who means this country harm."And then pointedly:
"I don't doubt for one second the patriotism of members of our government. I really don't. But I'll tell you this--I do question their priorities."And on this day, Charlie Brown would make a new pledge to his country. A pledge to give back to his a country. Not a pledge to give back to his country if he gets elected. Not a pledge to give back to his country two years from now. No, a pledge to give back to his country, today, yesterday, and tomorrow.
"[I]n this campaign we will not wait until January of 2009 to make a difference. We're going to lead by example, by giving 5% of every dollar we raise between now and election day to charities that serve veterans and families in need--here in the 4th District, and across the country.The prognosis of Brown is difficult to predict. With Doolittle vowing to stay in the race, the key will be whether or not Doolittle can win the Republican nomination. If he does, Charlie Brown has an outstanding chance to win, even in the most Republican district in the state. If not, then it becomes a truly uphill battle.
But we're not stopping there. I'm calling on every candidate in any party, running for every level of elected office, to do much more than just say they "support our troops," by joining us in this effort to truly "leave no veteran behind."
However, watching the audience on this day, it was remarkable to see the number of veterans in this crowd. It was remarkable to see the dedication and the vision of Charlie Brown and his family. And you had to believe that if anyone could do it, if anyone could change the country, it would be Charlie Brown.
---Doug Paul Davis reporting