Father of Marine Killed in Iraq to Challenge Democratic Vet in Pennsylvania

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The father of a Marine killed in Iraq announced Tuesday he is running for the Pennsylvania House seat held by the only Iraq war veteran in Congress.

Thomas Manion, a Republican who recently retired as a colonel in the Marine Reserves, is unhappy with positions Rep. Patrick Murphy, D-Pa., has taken against the war.

Manion's son, 1st Lt. Travis L. Manion, 26, of Doylestown, Pa., died April 29 during his second Iraq tour while living with an Iraqi unit he was leading and training. He said his son's death was a wake-up call to step forward and serve.

"I've learned that if you want to make something happen, you've got to get out on the playing field," Manion, 53, said in a phone interview.

Murphy, 34, served as a military lawyer in Iraq with the 82nd Airborne Division. Seizing on voters' discontent with the Iraq war, Murphy in 2006 beat then-Rep. Mike Fitzpatrick with less than 51 percent of the vote. The competitive district includes a part of Philadelphia and its surrounding suburbs.

In office, Murphy has been front and center in the Democrats' fight to get troops out of Iraq, and was vocal in his opposition to President Bush's so-called "surge" plan announced early last year. As part of the plan, 30,000 additional soldiers and Marines were stationed in the country.

While more troops died in 2007 than in any other year in the war, the death count declined substantially by the end of the year and fighting was calmed in parts of the country. The Iraqi government, however, made little of the political progress that was promised as part of the surge.

Manion, a pharmaceutical executive, said his son died while fighting as part of the surge and had expressed confidence in it before he died. While "nobody wants the war to end as much as I do," Manion said stability in Iraq is essential for stability in the Middle East, and U.S. military leaders should be given an opportunity to make that happen.

"My son was about this country, so I'm sure he'd be very proud that I'm stepping forward and stepping on the field, as he was, to try to make a difference for our country," Manion said.