Terry Anderson (search) had a recurring thought during 61/2 years as a hostage in the Middle East: He had spent his career being a watcher, not a doer.

"One of the things I kind of decided in captivity is that I'd been an observer for too long and it was time to participate," said Anderson, who spent 18 years as a journalist.

Those reflections ultimately led him to politics, first on the fringes and now as a Democratic state Senate candidate in Republican territory and one of Ohio's poorest regions.

Anderson, 56, was chief Middle East correspondent for The Associated Press when he was kidnapped in Lebanon by Iranian-sponsored terrorists in 1985. He was freed in 1991.

Since then he has become an entrepreneur, a philanthropist, a horse breeder, a blues-bar owner and a rich man, having received $26 million in a lawsuit against Iran.

Shortly after his release, he campaigned for Bill Clinton and other candidates in New York. He also worked with then-New York Gov. Mario Cuomo (search) in a group that studied how to speed up state lawmaking.

In 1998, he moved to Athens, a town of 21,000 in the Appalachian foothills, to teach journalism and head an institute on international reporting at Ohio University. He retired from the university three years ago.

The region, marked by rugged terrain that discourages farming, is made up mostly of small towns. Coal mining is a major industry. Manufacturing jobs, like those at a boot factory in Nelsonville, have been shipped overseas.

The southeastern Ohio district has not elected a Democrat since 1972. Anderson's opponent in November, Joy Padgett, was appointed to the seat.

Padgett, a lifelong resident of the nine-country district and former director of the Governor's Office of Appalachia, said she understands the region's problems better than Anderson does.

"Nothing has changed because of who happens to be my opponent," she said.

Scott Borgemenke, the campaign coordinator for Senate Republicans, said that while people know Anderson, he has no legislative record and has yet to let voters know where he stands on many issues.

"At some point, he's going to have to stop being Terry Anderson, former hostage, and transition to Terry Anderson, where do I stand on the issues?" Borgemenke said.

As in many small communities, locals are leery of outsiders, especially those with such a high profile, said Lisa Eliason, the city attorney and a friend of Anderson's. But "oftentimes, I forget who he is. He has become part of the community," she said.

Anderson pointed out that his captivity was less than seven of his 56 years.

"Somebody asked me some years ago, 'How does it feel to know that when they write your obituary it will read: Terry Anderson, comma, former hostage?"' he said. "I said that I hope between now and then — may it be a long time — that I will do something that will maybe push it down into the second paragraph."