Steve Brozak (search) isn't prominent or powerful. This is the first time he's run for office. So why does he merit a lusted-after spot to speak at the Democratic National Convention (search)?

It's his political armor, which few Democrats can equal.

Lax on defense? He's a retired Marine lieutenant colonel who says U.S. troops in Iraq lacked the numbers and equipment to do their job.

Tax-happy? He's an investment banker who cautions about overspending.

Just another party hack? He was a Republican for more than 20 years until switching allegiances last year.

"I think he's armed ... against those attacks," says Julie Roginsky, a campaign consultant for Brozak. "He's a fiscal conservative and social moderate, and that's something you can't affix a party label to."

Sitting stock straight in a pinstripe suit on a Boston park bench, Brozak fashioned himself Tuesday as independent. He said he saw too many Republicans with the "arrogant attitude that if you ask questions, you're considered disloyal."

Disloyal? Brozak volunteered to return to active duty the day after the Sept. 11 attacks. If his newborn daughter hadn't kept him awake the night before, he might have been passing through the World Trade Center, bound for work a few blocks away, when the jetliners rammed the towers.

On Wednesday evening, in the city where the hijacked jets took off, Brozak says he will speak to party delegates about terrorism and defense. He plans to tell them that Sen. John Kerry "offers a real vision ... for making sure we win the war on terror and making sure we have solutions for the Iraqi conflict."

Brozak, 43, of Westfield, N.J., is the son of Eastern European immigrants. He earned an MBA, did three years of active duty, then joined the Reserves.

In his day job, he worked for several Wall Street firms before co-founding Westfield Bakerink Brozak LLC, an investment bank specializing in biotechnology and medicine.

Last year, upset by GOP attacks on such military veterans as former Sen. Max Cleland of Georgia, Brozak abandoned his party.

Despite his assets, his race against U.S. Rep. Michael Ferguson is viewed as a struggle. The conservative Republican is finishing his second term in a central New Jersey district that is suburban, well-off, and GOP-leaning.