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Bartlett has changed, foe says, and not for the better

February 15, 2006|by BOB MAGINNIS

When I asked 6th District congressional candidate Andrew Duck how he expected to prevail over Rep. Roscoe Bartlett when so many other Democrats have failed, he had a simple answer:

"I'm not like any of the other four or five Democrats," he said.

If that sounds arrogant in print, in person it comes across as self-confidence developed through life experiences, starting with the rough and tumble of being one of 17 children.

Duck, 43, graduated from Middletown High School in 1979 and enlisted in the U.S. Army at age 19, eventually becoming a military- intelligence officer.

He now works with Northrop Grumman in the Pentagon as a models and simulations officer.

Duck served 20 years in the Army, including "time on the ground in Iraq." He said he had hoped to make it to 22, but decided that he couldn't help carry out administration policy in Iraq because he didn't feel it made any sense.


Told that the Iraqi army needed to be reconstituted to provide for that nation's defense, Duck said the administration instead replied the army would be rebuilt from the ground up.

But when troops from the United Kingdom offered to do just that, Duck said they were told that a contract for that hadn't been let yet.

"Right now, instead of being focused on getting the job done, the Bush administration is focused on who they can give contracts to," Duck said.

And so he left the Army and decided to continue serving his country at the local level.

But after searching for another candidate to take on Rep. Bartlett, Duck said he could not find "anyone who would make a viable candidate."

So why does he believe that he will succeed where other Democrats have failed?

"My record of service. It really appeals to voters in this district. And I'm not interested in getting rich. You don't serve 20 years in the Army to get rich," he said.

The other reason: Bartlett has changed, Duck said.

Bartlett is no longer the maverick elected in 1992 on a pledge to balance the budget, Duck said.

In the last three years, Duck said, Bartlett has voted for "the three biggest deficits in U.S. history."

And, for all of Bartlett's talk about saving cash, when then-House Majority Leader Tom DeLay was backing a bill to grant billions to the nation's oil companies, Duck claimed Bartlett changed his vote to favor it at DeLay's request.

But Duck said his campaign is about more than opposition to Bartlett.

He is concerned about the nation's health-care system, he said, because care here costs 53 percent more than the next-closest country. Forty percent of the costs are not medical, but administrative, he said.

Duck said he's not yet willing to go to a single-payer system, but believes the country needs universal health care in which administrative costs would take no more than 10 percent to 15 percent of all dollars spent.

Action is needed, Duck said, because "if we do nothing, in 10 years, 50 percent of Americans will have government-funded health care anyway."

On other issues, Duck said he holds the following positions:

Gun control: "If you're an American citizen and you're not a criminal or mentally unstable, you have the right to own a firearm."

Abortion: "I am the 15th out of 17 children. I am pro-life."

But Duck said he feels that outlawing abortion would turn out as the nation's failed attempt to outlaw alcoholic beverages did, unless there is universal access to health care.

Also needed, he said, are adequate child care, a more effective adoption system and better sex education.

"Unless you provide adequate sex education, you are contributing to the number of abortions in this country," Duck said.

Energy: Duck favors doubling the money the nation spends on developing alternative energy sources, "so we can achieve energy independence within 10 years."

There is a portfolio of methods to help that happen, Duck said, including biodiesel, clean-coal technology and, of course, conservation.

Transportation: Duck endorsed a north-south highway crossing Allegany County and better public transit to give more citizens access to affordable housing.

Debates: "I'm willing to debate Roscoe Bartlett at any place, at any time and under any rules."

In an hour-long interview, Duck had more to say than can be printed here. Later this week, a longer version will be posted on my blog at

The Duck campaign's Web site is at

Bob Maginnis is Opinion editor of The Herald-Mail newspapers.

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