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Matthew Lickona 6 p.m., Nov. 17
With local congressman Bob Filner resigning his seat in order to seek office as San Diego’s next mayor, political pundits and veterans groups have begun pondering who will get the nod to replace him as the ranking Democrat on the Veterans' Affairs Committee in the House of Representatives.
“When it’s all said and done, who’s going to be the one who’s going to literally follow through on the niceties that are said on Memorial Day and Veterans Day?” asked Tim Tetz, the legislative director of the American Legion, in Roll Call. The group, as well as other lobbying interests for veterans, largely credit Filner’s aggressive defense of veterans for helping secure the significant funding increases to the VA over the past several years — VA spending rose from $61.8 billion in fiscal 2004 to $109.6 billion in fiscal 2010.
“Right now we’re defending the advancements that we made the last two, three, five sessions of Congress,” added Tetz.
Committee chairman Jeff Miller, a Florida Republican, has privately drawn ire for his extension of the conservative belief in smaller government to include lower spending for veterans. Publicly, however, veterans’ lobbyists are loathe to speak negatively about the man who leads the committee in charge of defining federal policy affecting their groups’ members.
Next in line to assume Filner’s position is Corrine Brown, representing the heavily military-influenced district of Jacksonville, Florida. But she might not want to give up her ranking membership on the Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee on Railroads, Pipelines and Hazardous Materials in order to pursue the Veterans' Affairs opening.
Same with Silvestre Reyes, next behind her and also involved with a prized subcommittee he’d have to leave in order to pursue Filner’s seat.
Also in the running is Mike Michaud of Maine, already the ranking Democrat on the VA Subcommittee on Health. “He’s dedicated to the committee, and has been an active member on it since he was first sworn in, making veterans’ issues a top priority throughout his time in the House,” said his spokesman Ed Gilman in a statement, indicating Michaud would “be interested in the position.”
None of these candidates, however, seem to inspire the excitement among veterans groups as Filner, often given to fiery and impassioned tirades that won him support from those initially skeptical of his having never served himself.
“That was the unique thing about Mr. Filner,” said Tetz, again speaking to Roll Call. “He wasn’t a veteran, he was someone who went from literally throwing rocks at veterans to being one of their big advocates.