Marine veteran Nick Popaditch (photo: Nick Popaditch for Congress 2008)

What do more than 25 returning combat veterans, a beauty queen, a general surgeon, a scientist, talk-radio hosts, a political analyst, a former welfare mom and Richard Nixon’s grandson have in common?

Most have never held political office – none are garden-variety politicians – but they’re all determined to take back Congress this year from the hands of incumbents who they believe do not represent America’s best interests.

The following are just a few unique characters vying for seats in the Senate and House of Representatives this year:

Nick Popaditch, decorated Marine veteran

Decorated Marine veteran Nick Popaditch, 42, a gunnery sergeant who was famously
photographed smoking a cigar after the fall of Baghdad
, fought in
Operation Desert Shield, Operation Desert Storm and, more recently,
Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Popaditch receives medical treatment in Fallujah immediately after being wounded. USMC Commandant Michael Hagee stands over him. (photo: “Once a Marine“)

He’s hoping to win a seat in California’s
mostly Democratic 51st Congressional District – a district that runs
along the border between California and Mexico – as a conservative
Republican. The incumbent, Democrat Bob Filner, has held the seat since

In 2003, Popaditch’s unit helped topple the Saddam Hussein statue
in Baghdad’s Firdos Square. He was awarded the Silver Star for
combat action in Fallujah after he was hit in the head by a
rocket-propelled grenade and blinded in one eye on April 7, 2004, during
Operation Vigilant Resolve. The blast left him with only eight percent
vision in his other eye.

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Popaditch, nicknamed “Gunny Pop,” had been engaged in combat
inside the terrorist stronghold for 36 hours before he was severely
wounded, disoriented, blind, deaf and covered in blood. Video of the
attack is available at the website for his book, “Once a Marine.” He was medically retired from the Marines in 2005.

“Hey, I’m a lucky man,” he told the National Enquirer. “I’m happy
to be alive.”

A proud Marine, Popaditch now sports a prosthetic eye emblazoned
with the Marine Corps’ eagle, globe and anchor logo.

Popaditch is now campaigning on limited government, strong
national defense and secure borders.

“Since returning home, I’ve seen our liberties under assault and
our children’s future being sold away by an expanding government that
limits individual freedom and responsibility,” he said upon announcing
his candidacy.

Popaditch’s prosthetic eye is emblazoned with the Marine Corps’ eagle, globe and anchor logo. (photo: “Once
a Marine

Popaditch lives in San Diego, Calif., with his wife, April, and
two children, Richard and Nicholas.

“I’m a rookie to this,” he told Fox News. “I’ve got to be honest
with you. I’m not a politician; I’m a citizen. I’m a citizen who loves
his country.”

Popaditch said he believes his chances for winning are excellent.

“We don’t get in a fight to lose it,” he said.

Dan Benishek, general surgeon

Surgeon Dan Benishek

Dan Benishek is a 57-year-old practicing general surgeon in Crystal Falls, Mich., whose candidacy was thrust into the spotlight after Rep. Bart Stupak, a nine-term Democrat, voted for the Democrats’ health-care bill despite his previous objections to federal funding of abortion.

Stupak’s “yea” vote on the health-care bill immediately resulted in an outpouring of support for Benishek, running as a Republican in Michigan’s 1st District. He received more than $50,000 in unsolicited donations just days after Stupak cast his vote for the bill on March 21. Stupak announced his intention to retire only weeks later, saying angry voters who criticized him for voting for the health bill were not a factor in his decision.

Benishek, a pro-life advocate, told the Boston Herald, “[Stupak] beat himself by doing that dramatic flip-flop. He could have been a hero.”

Never having sought political office at any level of government, Banishek decided to enter politics while ice fishing with friends, the Herald reported. Rather than pursuing a career in local politics, he began gunning immediately for Washington, D.C. He said, “I was upset about the stimulus plan being passed in the cover of darkness. The arrogance just drove me nuts.”

Washington is out of control and “run by politicians who are out of touch,” he said. “I truly believe the people in our district deserve better.”

Benishek, a member of the National Rifle Association, has appeared as a speaker at many tea-party rallies. He holds conservative positions on issues such as private-sector job creation, fiscal responsibility, tax reduction, secure borders, free-market health-care reform, energy independence, strong national defense, Second Amendment rights and sanctity of life from conception to natural death.

Benishek believes he knows more about health care than the Democrats in Washington.

“You learn a lot about the system,” he told the Herald, “battling the bureaucracy that bogs down medical care while paying $40,000 a year in malpractice insurance.

“This is a disaster. It’s just a disaster. It’s just another layer of federal bureaucracy that doctors must comply with. Nurses already spend half their time documenting procedures. So you have to pay two nurses to get the work of one. [Obamacare] is only going to make things worse.”

Army Lt. Col. Allen West

Allen West speaks at CPAC this year. (photo: Allen West campaign)

Lt. Col. Allen West, retired U.S. Army officer and one of four generations of military servicemen in his family, is the GOP candidate for Congress in Florida’s 22nd District. He is challenging incumbent Democratic Rep. Ron Klein.

West was introduced to the nation in 2003 when he faced criminal charges for using shock interrogation tactics to protect his soldiers in Iraq. As WND reported in 2003, West was threatened with court-martial for tactics he used to flush out information from an uncooperative Iraqi policeman. Threatening to kill the Iraqi if he didn’t talk, West fired a pistol near the policeman’s head, producing an immediate flood of information that purportedly led to the arrest of two insurgents and cessation of attacks on West’s 4th Infantry Division battalion.

Army prosecutors charged West with aggravated assault, and he faced the possibility of up to eight years in prison. At a hearing, West was asked by his defense attorney if he would do it again.

West responded, “If it’s about the lives of my soldiers at stake, I’d go through hell with a gasoline can.”

He eventually accepted a nonjudicial punishment, the forfeiture of two months’ pay, about $5,000. He retired from the military and moved with his wife, Angela, and two young daughters to Broward County, Fla., where he taught high school. He served in Afghanistan as an adviser to the Afghan army until November 2007.

Since Oct. 21, 2009, a video of West’s passionately delivered emphasis on constitutional principles of liberty, fiscal responsibility, strong national defense and free-market solutions has drawn more than 2.1 million views on

Calling 2010 a defining moment for the nation, he cited Thomas Paine’s famous “times that try men’s souls.”

“If you’re here to shrink away from the duties, there’s a door. Get out,” West said. “But if you’re here to stand up – to get your musket, to fix your bayonet, to charge into the ranks – you’re my brother and sister in this fight.”

In a 2008 interview, West told WND, “For me, it is a logical progression to go from serving one’s country in the armed services to serving one’s country in a different uniform, a civilian suit, because you have taken an oath to the Constitution, and you know what it means to sacrifice for the country. And you believe in something that is bigger than yourself.”

Arthur Robinson, scientist and businessman

Dr. Arthur Robinson, a 59-year-old scientist, educator, businessman and 30-year Oregon resident, is challenging Rep. Peter DeFazio in Oregon’s 4th District. He is not a professional politician and has never before sought public office.

As WND reported, Robinson said in his formal announcement that residents of his district now are “in danger of being without incomes, without jobs, without homes and without the freedom, prosperity, and way of life that America has previously provided.”

He continued, “The federal government is nearing bankruptcy and the Oregon government is scrambling to survive, while citizens see their savings dwindle, their home prices plunge, their budgets contract and their employers endangered.”

Scientist, educator and businessman Arthur Robinson (photo: Art Robinson for Congress)

The problem, he said, can easily be identified: Washington – “where the federal government has abandoned constitutional principles and gradually imposed crushing taxation, overwhelming bureaucratic regulation and control and vast government-sponsored litigation upon the once-free American people – burdens so great that their hard work and ingenuity can no longer provide the economic freedom and prosperity they once enjoyed.”

Robinson, an energy expert, cited energy as just one of the areas in which governmental rules and regulations have cost the nation literally trillions of dollars. To illustrate, he cited a science textbook published in 1976 that forecast at least 500 new nuclear reactors to produce energy in the United States by the year 2000.

Arthur Robinson

But none were built, and the estimated worth of the electricity that could have been generated by now – beyond the cost of the structures themselves – totals some $10 trillion, he said.

“Our government stopped a technological advance that would have revolutionized energy,” he said. “We were on top of that. No one else had it.”

In a recent column in WND, Robinson asserted successive waves of scientific scandals regarding global warming are just symptomatic of a larger corruption of the science establishment caused by the destructive and distorting effects of federal “help.”

Because of the chaos and danger in Washington, he said he feels compelled to run for Congress.

“There’s no choice,” he said. “We have to fight. It’s not just our country. Without the U.S., the world would be an entirely different place.

“I’m not saying our policies always have been good, but we’ve always stood as an example of freedom to the world. If that example isn’t there, I shudder to think where the world will go.”

In recent years, Robinson also initiated the Petition Project, which has obtained the support and signatures of more than 31,000 American scientists, including 9,000 with doctorates. The petition opposes, entirely on scientific grounds published in peer-reviewed journals, the hypothesis of “human-caused global warming.”

Angela McGlowan, former Fox News commentator

Angela McGlowan

Former Fox News commentator Angela McGlowan, a tea-party favorite, is running for Congress in Mississippi’s 1st District. She is hoping to unseat Rep. Travis Childers, D-Miss.

McGlowan earned a degree in public administration with an emphasis on political science and criminal justice from the University of Mississippi. Her campaign website describes her as a “pro-life, pro-gun, pro-small-business conservative” who has the “courage and know-how to defeat President Barack Obama’s all-out assault on our conservative Mississippi values.”

McGlowan said she is running for office because she’s “fed up with the way entrenched incumbent politicians abuse our tax dollars (and) raise taxes on our working families and small businesses as if we don’t mind the pain.”

“The economic policies of this administration and Congress have led to record budget deficits, a $12 trillion national debt and the highest unemployment rates in 26 years,” she said in a video announcement on her website. “That’s precisely why this Mississippi girl is fighting for North Mississippians like no one has ever fought for them before.”

McGlowan said she wants to go to Washington to fight the arrogance and corruption of power and work to balance the budget, slash the national debt, lower taxes, eliminate the “death tax,” enact policies to reward small businesses, protect the right to life of the unborn, preserve the sanctity of traditional marriage and defend law-abiding gun owners from infringement upon their constitutional right to keep and bear arms.

McGlowan surprised the crowd at the first national tea-party convention in Nashville, Tenn., when she hinted that she would be announcing her candidacy just a few days later.

Sue Lowden, beauty queen and Nevada gaming licensee

Sue Lowden

Former Nevada State Sen. Sue Lowden is emerging as the candidate most likely to defeat incumbent Sen. Harry Reid in November in the Democratic-leaning Clark County District 3.

Lowden’s grandparents worked in the coal mines of Pennsylvania after they immigrated from Lithuania, and her mother worked in a factory. She has a diverse professional background as a waitress, Miss District of Columbia 1971, Miss New Jersey 1973, second runner-up for Miss America, a kindergarten teacher, a television anchorwoman for CBS affiliate KLAS-TV in Nevada, former executive vice president of Sahara Hotel and Casino, a Nevada gaming licensee and a member of the board of directors and secretary-treasurer of Archon Corporation, a gaming and investment company. She has traveled with the USO and the Bob Hope Christmas troupe to Vietnam and American military bases all over the world.

Lowden, a pro-life Catholic, supports total elimination of estate and capital-gains taxes, making 2001 and 2003 federal tax cuts permanent, slashing federal spending, balancing the budget, enhancing economic security between Israel and the U.S., securing American borders and seaports and upholding the Second Amendment right of individuals to keep and bear arms.

Lowden pictured with talk-radio host Rush Limbaugh at the 2010 Miss America pageant at Planet Hollywood in Las Vegas (photo: Sue Lowden for U.S. Senate)

Upon passage of the Democrats’ health-care legislation, Lowden blasted Reid for creating “another trillion-dollar entitlement.”

“When Harry Reid, Nancy Pelosi and Barack Obama took control of Washington last year, they promised an ethical, centrist and transparent government: one that would strive to cut taxes, put people back to work, allow C-SPAN to watch bills being crafted and place necessary controls on government spending,” she said in a press release. “Instead, we got hundreds of billions of dollars in higher taxes, trillions of dollars in higher debt, and a brand-new government entitlement program.”

She continued, “Harry Reid and his career-politician caucus have already bankrupted two other entitlement programs (Social Security and Medicare), so his solution is to create another.”

According to a poll commissioned by the Las Vegas Review-Journal and released April 16, Lowden is leading Reid by 10 points, 47 percent to 37 percent, in a full general-election test.

Star Parker, author and former welfare mom


Star Parker, a
well-known author and syndicated columnist, is a Republican who has
never held political office. She is running unopposed in the primary in
California’s 37th Congressional District, currently represented by
Democrat Laura Richardson.

Parker is founder and president of the Center
for Urban Renewal and Education
, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit
think tank that explores and promotes market-based public policy to
fight poverty.

Star Parker (photo: Center for Urban Renewal and Education)

Once a single welfare mom living in Los Angeles, Calif., Parker
became a Christian and took a job answering phones at a
food-distribution company. Then she returned to college, earned a degree
in marketing and started an urban Christian magazine that promoted
church-sponsored events. Her business was destroyed during the 1992
Rodney King riots in Los Angeles.

In 1992, Parker had a child in
the sixth grade and began to favor the concept of school vouchers. She
told, “[H]er school was horrible.

“Rich people can
afford to send their kids to private schools, but poor people are
forced to send their children to broken schools,” she told World magazine.
“Money should follow the child.”

a 2009 column
, Parker argued that the “government-welfare socialism” doesn’t solve economic problems. Instead, she wrote, it
creates “monstrous moral and spiritual problems. The kind of problems
that are inevitable when individuals turn responsibility for their lives
over to others.”

“The legacy of American socialism is our
blighted inner cities, dysfunctional inner-city schools and broken black
families,” she explained. “Through God’s grace, I found my way out. It
was then that I understood what freedom meant and how great this country

Parker now testifies regularly before Congress as a
social-policy consultant, and she appears on major television and radio
shows across the nation. She has authored three books: “Pimps, Whores
& Welfare Brats,” “Uncle
Sam’s Plantation
” and “White Ghetto: How Middle Class America
Reflects Inner City Decay.” She has spoken at more than 200 universities
in 49 of 50 states.

Parker supports limited government, free
markets, strong national defense, protection of private property and
personal retirement accounts rather than Social Security taxes. She
opposes government-run health care, welfare dependency, same-sex
marriage and abortion.

On her website, she explains that the
nation is morally and financially bankrupt.

“Government now takes
almost half of our national income, yet poverty does not change,” she
wrote. “Poor kids don’t get educated. We’re piling up debt that our kids
will never be able to pay. And we’re becoming less rather than more
competitive in the international marketplace. We’re becoming weaker, not

She added, “So the question today before us: are we
going to be a free nation under God? Or are we going to be a welfare

John Dennis, businessman and real-estate investor

John Dennis

As WND reported, libertarian conservative John Dennis has declared his plans to “take out Nancy Pelosi” in the 2010 election to stop her from devastating the nation.

Dennis, a businessman and real-estate investor in California’s 8th Congressional District, told WND, “I’ve decided to run because the statist Pelosi agenda will destroy America.”

Rep. Pelosi’s district covers most of San Francisco, and Democrats have held the seat since 1949. Since first winning the House seat in a 1987 special election, Pelosi, 69, has breezed to re-election 10 times. President Obama received 85 percent of the vote there in 2008.

What gives Dennis hope for 2010?

“I think we can build a very sturdy case for taking out Pelosi,” he said. “I find most of the people on the left find that she’s not their cup of tea. She engages in a lot of class warfare, and there are a lot of folks on the left who are disaffected by her and disaffected with her. We’re going to leverage as many of those relationships as we possibly can.”

Dennis, son of a longshoreman and a city-hall clerk, grew up in a Jersey City, N.J., housing project. He graduated from Fordham University with a degree in business administration and co-founded Humanscale, one of the world’s top 10 design firms, specializing in office ergonomics. He later created Foundation Real Estate, a San Francisco–based investment company. In 2008, he served as phonebank and Get Out the Vote director for Ron Paul’s presidential campaign in San Francisco.

“I became actively involved in politics about two years ago,” he said. “I was frustrated with everything – even my own party and the lost opportunities we had to put a cap on spending and the growth of government. I was looking for good candidates to support, and I just finally decided to be a candidate myself.”

John Dennis, wife Heather and daughter Devan (photo: John Dennis)

Dennis is founder of the San Francisco chapter of the Republican Liberty Caucus and board member of the Republican Liberty Caucus of California and has served as an alternate on the San Francisco Republican Central Committee.

He expressed deep concern over the “looming dollar crisis,” the nation’s “mountain of debt” and what he considers the federal government’s unconstitutional expansion of power.

Dennis blasted Pelosi’s “disastrous” legislative agenda advocating government-run health care, cap and trade and the Cybersecurity Act of 2009, a bill that would give the president “emergency” control of the Internet.

“Everything that Nancy Pelosi has her hands on is anti-liberty and pro-government-power,” he said, with a laugh. “I defy anybody to show me a speech or a press release that says she’s going to somehow protect their liberties and reduce the size of government.”


Dennis said he often asks people, “What’s the one thing about Pelosi that bothers you most?”

“A lot of times, truth be told, people respond, ‘Everything,'” he said. “Aside from that response, people say her holier-than-thou attitude, her above-it-all unresponsiveness.”

Pelosi professes to have sentiments of being for the people, Dennis said, but her actions speak volumes.

“Her lifestyle doesn’t support any of those positions,” he said. “I think people in this district are getting just as sick of her as everyone else.”

Chris Cox, grandson of Richard Nixon

Chris Cox, grandson of former president Richard Nixon and son of New York State GOP Chairman Ed Cox, is running for Congress in New York. He is a 30-year-old attorney and former associate at the law firm Weil, Gotshal and Manges seeking the GOP nomination to face incumbent Democrat Tim Bishop in the state’s 1st Congressional District.

“Chris is a fiscal conservative who will fight for limited government and lower taxes,” his campaign website states.

Cox at the 20th anniversary of the Nixon Presidential Library (photo: Chris Cox for Congress)

During the 2008 presidential election, Cox served as executive director of John McCain’s New York campaign. Cox, a graduate of the New York University School of Law and Princeton University, has never held elected office.

He is campaigning on the repeal of Obamacare.

“I vow to you that if I am given the privilege and honor to represent Suffolk County in the U.S. House of Representatives, one of my first acts will be to move forward or support legislation which repeals this ill-conceived bill and allows us to address health care in an honest and constructive way,” he told supporters in a letter last month.

He also blasted Congress and the Obama administration for massive federal spending.

“Much of what Congress and the administration have done in the name of job creation has been ineffective at best and counterproductive at worst,” he said. “They spent $800 billion in the so-called stimulus bill, much of it on a porkbarrel wish list that created few good, secure, private-sector jobs. When that money runs out, so will many of the jobs that depended on it.”

Cox supports lowering taxes on savings, investments and small businesses and reduction of payroll taxes.

“Government needs to stop taking more and more of our money to make more and more of our choices for us,” he said. “The more money government keeps in the hands of the people who earned it, the more decisions Americans make for themselves, the faster the economy will grow, the more jobs will be created, the more new businesses will start up, and the better off we’ll all be.”

U.S. Capitol

Other candidates and trends

Several black women are embracing the Republican Party and running for Congress this year. In addition to Angela McGlowan and Star Parker, other black female candidates this year include: Arkansas’ Princella Smith, California’s Virginia Fuller, Florida’s Gwyn McClellan, Georgia’s Dr. Deborah Honeycutt, Minnesota’s Barb Davis White and Tennessee’s Jean-Howard Hill and Charlotte Bergmann.

Also, radio talk-show hosts such as Arizona’s J.D. Hayworth (Senate), New Hampshire’s Jennifer Horn, Georgia’s Jody Hice and former nationally syndicated host Paul Schiffer of Ohio have announced their bids for Congress.

Likewise, at least 25 returning Iraq and Afghanistan combat veterans are answering the call to serve their country yet again – this time as lawmakers. A list of returning combat veterans who are running for office is available at Iraq Veterans for Congress.

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