Wednesday marked the fifth year anniversary of the start of the war in Iraq, making it an appropriate day to listen to war stories.
Steve Sarvi, a Minnesota National Guardsman, Iraq veteran and the likely DFL-endorsed candidate for the Congress in the 2nd District, obliged.
His infantry outfit out of West St. Paul was serving in Iraq, an extended deployment that finally ended last summer. The sergeant told of one of his outfit’s early missions.
“We were assigned to what was considered a relatively safe region (south) in the country,” Sarvi said. “So we didn’t have the updated Humvees. Fortunately, the outfit that had been there before we were had found some scrap metal and slapped it on our Humvees for extra protection. We’re about ready to go out on one of our first patrols there. I had my gear on. I said, ‘Let’s do it!’ I climbed in, slammed the door and the window fell out.”
“All I could think of at the time was that old Rumsfeld line: ‘You go to war with the army you have, not the army you wished you had.’ ”
Decision to run against Kline evolved
That wasn’t exactly the moment the 43-year-old Sarvi decided he’d run for Congress. But by the time he returned home from Iraq, he was seriously thinking about running against incumbent Republican, John Kline. After returning in July, Sarvi, who is married and the father of three, allowed himself a few weeks to re-adjust to his family and work (he is Victoria’s city administrator). He began seriously looking at a run in October and announced his candidacy in February.
Sarvi could be one of three contemporary war vets running — as DFLers — for Congress in November.
Madea could join Walz as endorsed candidates
Tim Walz, who served overseas in 2005, led the way two years ago, upsetting Republican incumbent Gil Gutknecht in the 1st District.
This year, Ashwin Madea, who served as a Marine/attorney in Iraq, is the front-runner for endorsement over better-known candidates in the 3rd District where state Rep. Erik Paulsen is expected to be the Republican candidate.
And there is Sarvi, who has not been seriously challenged in the race for endorsement in the largely suburban district that hits Carver, Scott, Dakota and Washington counties, as well as more rural areas in LeSueur, Goodhue and Rice counties. The final two district conventions are this weekend with the endorsing convention to be held in May.
Is there something in the overseas water creating so many veterans running as DFL candidates?
“I think you come back wanting more than ever to make a difference,” said Sarvi, who, like his fellow DFL Iraqi vets, believes the United States needs to figure out a way to get out of the war sooner, not later. “I have a very strong sense that Iraq will work — when we are gone. We’re standing in the way of the Iraqi government making the hard decisions.”
The district is supposed to be solidly Republican. But then, the 1st District was solidly Republican, too, until Walz came along.
Sarvi’s campaign points out that in the wake of the DFL’s huge legislative gains two years ago, more than 50 per cent of the 2nd District’s state legislators now sit on the DFL side of the aisle. Additionally, Amy Klobuchar pounded Mark Kennedy by more than 30,000 votes in their 2006 Senate race.
Sarvi would seem to pose some problems for Kline, who typically has run campaigns touting his support of President Bush, his own military career — surely those old campaign ads about carrying the “nuclear football” for Ronald Reagan will be dusted off — and his fiscal conservatism.
“But I have a hard time understanding how you can call yourself a fiscal conservative when what you’re doing is passing on huge debts for the war to your children and grandchildren,” said Sarvi. “The days of starting a war and going shopping are over.”
Ultimately, though, the big issue in the 2nd District might come down to style. Kline has come to be seen as somewhat aloof. Sarvi has been using his free time by going on “listening tours” throughout the district. Essentially, that means hitting coffee shops and restaurants and chatting.
In many ways, his military experiences have prepped him well for a seat in Congress, he says. Because of his municipal government jobs in the United States, Sarvi often worked on community projects with the locals in Iraq and, before that, in Kosovo.
He apparently can be quite compelling. He was so popular with a village council in Kosovo in 2003 that the village mayor tried to get him to stay when his tour was over by offering him a house and a cow.
He came back to Minnesota anyway.
“You get people together and you find common ground,” he said. “If you can get that done there, surely you can help get it done here.”
Tim Walz’s war service was incorrectly stated in the above post. He served overseas in Operation Enduring Freedom as part of the war on terrorism.