Military Vet Tries to Win over GOP District

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While Republicans work to win enough seats to regain control of the House this November, many Democrats are on a mission to defeat opponents in red districts.

Candidate Tommy Sowers is among them. He wants to represent Missouri's 8th Congressional District and by many accounts, has the perfect resume.

He's a Duke graduate on an ROTC scholarship with a Master's degree in public policy and currently working on his doctorate. Sowers is also a West Point instructor and an 11-year veteran in Special Operations as both a Green Beret and an Army Ranger.

"For me, I feel like we're at a critical point in our nation where we have to get some new blood in D.C. to make some of the tough decisions that will set us up for the 21st century," Sowers said.

Running is an ambitious decision, since Sowers is a Democrat and will challenge well-known incumbent Rep. JoAnn Emerson in a district that hasn't sent a Democrat to Washington since 1980.

Sowers is hoping to stage an upset in November, but it'll be like climbing Mount Everest.

A Tough Sell

Historically, the party in control of the White House loses an average of 28 seats. Democrats are preparing to fend off even more.

And in a conservative district, trying to win over support from voters who don't like things like the healthcare reform law from a candidate who supports it, will be a tough sell.

Still, some see Sowers as the kind of candidate who could pull it off.

"The boy grew up with my kids. He was a neighbor boy. He was always a good kid," said supporter Tony Viessman. "Then he went into the military and turned out to be a heck of a man."

Sowers believes he can capitalize on the country's anti-incumbent mood, connect with voters, and get them to look past party labels. He's been traveling throughout all 28 counties in the district, doing odd jobs. Being able to talk about his Missouri roots and his faith come naturally.

"When I was in Iraq, I carried that Bible with me and carried it in my left breast pocket, and I still have it today," he said.

And Sowers' campaign is gaining traction and money. This month, he headlined a Washington event with backers like former Democratic leader Howard Dean and Twitter founder Jack Dorsey.

Yet the attention also draws scrutiny.

"Tommy Sowers is getting attention and raising money in liberal enclaves ... but he is still unknown in the Eighth Congressional District," Emerson's campaign reps said in a statement to CBN News.

"He's a terrible model for Democrats this year -- spend minimal time in the district you want to represent, attack immensely well-liked public servants with lies and distortions, and act like you're an insider politician from Nancy Pelosi's inner circle," campaign officials continued.

Republicans Not Giving Up

Whatever challenge people like Sowers may present, Republicans see victory in November -- and perhaps even the 39 seats needed to reclaim control of the House.

"What we're seeing now is that even those strong appealing candidates that sometimes can woo Republican voters, or vice-versa sometimes, the issues of the day are transcending that," said Rep. Mike Rogers, vice chair of the National Republican Campaign Committee. "Because they know that that particular candidate is going to come to Washington, D.C., and vote the very first vote that they will cast is for Nancy Pelosi."

While Sowers draws a lot from his faith and his time in the military, his position on the military's "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy may hurt him.

Sowers supports repealing the policy, calling it a matter of military professionalism and personal integrity -- a stance that's hard to sell in a conservative district.

"I think it's an issue of some people agree with me, some people don't," he said. "But most everyone in the 8th District believes being represented by a recent combat veteran would be a good thing."

*Originally broadcast on July 1, 2010.

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John Jessup

John Jessup

CBN News Anchor

John Jessup serves as the main news anchor for CBN, a position he assumed after 10 years reporting for the network in Washington, D.C. His work in broadcast news has earned him several awards in reporting, producing, and coordinating elections coverage. Follow John on Twitter @JohnCBNNews and "like" him at