View Full Version : I've found Rudy's Vice President Candidate

06-19-2007, 03:25 PM

From Kevin Bohn and Jeanne Meserve
CNN Washington Bureau
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DRACUT, Massachusetts (CNN) -- Jim Ogonowski admits he has an uphill climb to persuade the voters of Massachusetts' 5th Congressional District to send a Republican to the House of Representatives for the first time in more than three decades.

But Ogonowski, who just retired as a lieutenant colonel after 28 years in the U.S. Air Force, also has an inspiring personal story that is gaining attention.

His brother, John Ogonowski, was an American Airlines pilot on Flight 11, the first plane to hit the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001.

"It is part of my history. It is part of the history of this country. Our country's history was altered on September 11, 2001. We can never let that happen. I ... just happen to be part of that history that day," Ogonowski said in an interview on the farm that his brother owned. Ogonowski now runs it for the family of his brother's widow. (Watch Ogonowski explain why he is running for Congress Video)

With a message about bolstering homeland security and staying tough on terrorism, Ogonowski is running for the seat held by Rep. Marty Meehan, D-Massachusetts, who is stepping down in July to become chancellor of the University of Massachusetts at Lowell.

Political experts predict that Ogonowski will win the GOP nomination in the September 4 primary.

Several locally well-known and experienced Democrats, however, are vying in their primary to see who will move on to the October general election, including Eileen Donoghue, former mayor of Lowell; state Rep. Barry Finegold; and Niki Tsongas, the widow of the late U.S. Sen. Paul Tsongas.
Analyst: Story may not be enough

David King, a political expert with Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government, said he believes Ogonowski's story may bring some sympathy but the candidate still faces a daunting challenge.

"This is a district that follows politics very, very carefully and knows all of the players on the Democratic side very well. There is a lot of talent on the Democratic side. Terrific candidates," King said. "And Lt. Col. Ogonowski is flying in with an air war. He doesn't have boots on the ground. He doesn't have troops that are marching door to door. All of the other candidates do.

"His story is not going to be enough to win the day when it comes to the general election. He even has a challenge in the Republican primary."

Ogonowski is trying to distinguish himself by focusing on national and homeland security.

"The country is losing its focus, and we now have [to] stay focused on the global war on terrorism," he said. Among his priorities would be increasing air cargo security.

On Iraq, he is trying to offer a middle-of-the-road position of criticizing the rationale for the original invasion but saying the nation should not lay down any absolute timelines for pulling out troops.

"I think we have to give them benchmarks [but] ... as a military officer it is incredibly poor to release your strategy and your timeline to your enemy, and so we cannot set timelines the enemy knows," he says.

On immigration, he sides with those in his party who do not favor allowing citizenship for illegal immigrants unless they leave the country. "I hate the symbolism behind the fence, but it is going to be required. Some areas it is going to require a hard fence. Other areas will require a technological fence," he said.
Too conservative for Massachusetts?

King said Ogonowski's view on Iraq is not that different from Democrats in the race, but any views he has that are deemed too conservative will turn off voters in the district.

"If you want a liberal in the Massachusetts 5th Congressional District, you are going to vote for a Democrat. If you pretend to be a conservative in the 5th Congressional District in Massachusetts, you are going down in flames," King said.

While Ogonowski calls the district one of the more independent-leaning ones in the state, King countered it is still an area that leans strongly toward Democrats and Ogonowski, as a political outsider, needs to find ways to distinguish himself.

06-20-2007, 07:46 AM