Fort Leavenworth In campaigning for Congress, Nancy Boyda blunted questions about her stance on the war in Iraq by telling voters she'd support the troops even if she had misgivings about their mission.
That approach worked for the Democrat, but now Republicans are trying to undercut whatever support she enjoys among veterans in the 2nd District of eastern Kansas. A month into her first term, she faced criticism for voting for a military spending bill that didn't earmark money for construction projects in her district.
"Very few things surprise me in politics - very few things," said Boyda earlier this week before attending a ceremony at Fort Leavenworth's Command and General Staff College. "I am surprised at the level of hostility and the personal nature of the attacks, especially when I am working hard - ask anybody here - to try to clean up the mess I've been left."
The firestorm comes as the House prepares to vote today on a nonbinding resolution condemning President Bush's plan to send 21,500 troops to quell the violence in Iraq. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has said the Democratic resolution was the first step in a longer campaign to end U.S. participation in the nearly four-year-old conflict.
The war in Iraq was part of the platform that helped Boyda defeat incumbent Republican Jim Ryun in November.
She asked voters to send her to Congress to be more critical of the war, which has claimed more than 3,100 American lives. But the issue required her to make clear her support for the troops because she participated in prewar protests and the district includes Forts Leavenworth and Riley.
Ryun already has told Kansas Republicans that he's leaning toward a rematch, and he's expected to make an announcement by April. State Treasurer Lynn Jenkins is considered a potential candidate as well.
In 2008, Boyda is likely to be one of the GOP's "prime targets," said Duke University political scientist David Rohde.
"That's a reflection of it being such an attractive opportunity," he said. "It's a widely held opinion that Boyda didn't win the district, Ryun lost the district."
He said a few districts like Boyda's are tilted heavily enough toward the military to make votes in Congress relevant. And newspaper editorials, state legislators and the Governor's Military Affairs Council all have decried the recent spending vote.
Boyda contends that the House's former GOP majority left her and others in a no-win situation. Congress approved only two of 11 spending bills before leaving power in January. A series of continuing resolutions have kept the government operating, including one covering military construction.
That bill lacks funding for new projects, including $350 million for Fort Riley, which is expected to nearly double its soldier population in the coming years with the return of the Army's 1st Infantry Division. Funding for a new prison facility at Fort Leavenworth also wasn't included.
Fort Riley officials say that they are watching the developments in Congress and the post should be fine in the long run. Boyda and other Democrats say projects will be funded by a supplemental bill President Bush wants to continue paying for the war.
However, Sen. Pat Roberts, the former chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said the lack of adequate housing at Fort Riley could mean that soldiers will find their quarters worse than those they have in Iraq.
Added Rep. Todd Tiahrt, a Republican representing the 4th District, "No matter what political party is in control, Congress should always place the needs of our troops as a top priority."
State Rep. Lee Tafanelli worries that if the projects are in jeopardy, the Army might station troops destined for Kansas elsewhere. Tafanelli, R-Ozawkie, a colonel in the National Guard, earned a bronze star leading an engineering battalion in Iraq in 2005.
"It's very difficult for the average soldier to distinguish between, 'Hey, I support you but not the mission you are doing.' They see through that," Tafanelli said.
Boyda also drew fire earlier this year when appearing on "Good Morning America" discussing funding the troop increase. She said she would support funding the surge because the president made the decision to send the troops. When host Charles Gibson said people were opposed to the war and spending, she said, "Well, they should have thought of that before they voted for George Bush, twice."