SAN DIEGO — For most congressional candidates, Iraq is an issue. For one, it's a destination. But not one that will derail his candidacy, he says.
Marine Capt. Duncan Duane Hunter wants to claim the seat now held by his father, Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-El Cajon). The elder Hunter, a member of Congress since 1981, is making a long-shot bid for the GOP presidential nomination and has said he will not seek another term in Congress if he fails.
The 30-year-old Hunter, a reservist and also a Republican, signaled his intentions several weeks ago and began the early work to mount a campaign. But now he has been recalled to active duty, most likely to deploy to Iraq in the next few weeks for his third tour of duty there.
Military regulations ban politicking by active-duty personnel. Still, Hunter said Tuesday that he had no intention of scuttling his nascent campaign and instead would recruit his wife and brother to act as stand-ins while he's gone.
"It's going to be a kind of surrogate campaign while I'm over there," he said.
A graduate of San Diego State, Hunter enlisted in the Marine Corps shortly after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. He served in Iraq in 2003 and during the assault on Fallouja in early 2004; he left active duty in September.
The primary is not until 2008, but would-be candidates have already begun looking for backers and contributors. Several local and state officeholders are considered possible candidates.
If he serves the standard seven-month deployment, Hunter should return in time to officially file as a candidate.
The 52nd Congressional District includes suburbs east of San Diego and much of the Anza-Borrego Desert. Republicans hold a 46% to 30% edge over Democrats in voter registration there. In his last election, Hunter's father received 66% of the vote.
The son was helping his father in his presidential bid when he received notification via FedEx that he was being called to active duty. Like a lot of reservists, he was taken aback at the new orders. But he quickly decided to continue the campaign in absentia.
"This has hardened my resolve to do it," he said.