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Monday, May 31, 2010 9:43 a.m.

Alumnus to face tough primary battle for Congressional seat

GW alum and Republican candidate for Congress in New Mexico's Third District Adam Kokesh, right, speaks with voters on the campaign trail. Photo courtesy Adam Kokesh.

Alumnus Adam Kokesh is battling for a Congressional seat in New Mexico 3rd District and voters in the state will decide Tuesday if the anti-war Republican will advance in the primary.

Kokesh, who has been endorsed by former presidential candidate and Rep. Ron Paul, R-Texas, is running as a member of the Tea Party in the Republican primary on Tuesday against Tom Mullins. If Kokesh wins the primary, he will attempt to unseat Democratic incumbent Ben Luján in November.

Kokesh has mostly relied on individual donations, rather than a campaign war chest, to fund his campaign. Data from the Federal Election Commission shows that as of May 12, he had raised $235,051 from individual contributions, over double that Mullins raised.

Despite his fundraising success, Kokesh is still considered by many to be an underdog and outsider in the election, an identity that he agrees with, but said that outsider status will help him if elected.

“If elected, I’m not dependent on party bosses or corrupt forces for reelection, if I choose to seek it. Having that measure of independence makes me accountable only to the voters and to the constituents,” he said.

He picked up the endorsement of the Santa Fe Reporter, who said they find Kokesh’s “independent thinking more interesting than that of his opponent.”

Although Kokesh is best known at GW for the campus-wide controversy surrounding the notorious posters regarding Muslims that he co-authored in 2007, and his involvement in several protests of the Iraq War, including one where he was arrested by the U.S. Capitol Police for unlawful assembly while protesting in the Hart Senate Office Building, he said he no longer is involved in displays of activism as he has been in the past.

“There is a difference between activism and campaigning. As an activist, you are trying to raise awareness and challenge people. On the campaign trail, you are bringing people together around a common belief,” he said.

He said one of his primary reasons for running is to give the citizens in his district a voice in Washington.

“I will restore power back to our community. My priorities will be issues that matter to the people in my district,” he said.

As a veteran of the Iraq War, Kokesh said an issue of particular importance to him is the medical care veterans receive. Kokesh said he would work to assure that veterans who suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injuries, called the “signature wounds” of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, are properly treated.

Kokesh enlisted in the Marine Corps at the age of seventeen and later was deployed to Fallujah, Iraq as part of the Third Civil Affairs Unit. He credits his time in the military with the composure and discipline he has used to run his campaign.

“The Marine Corps didn’t teach me how to beat around the bush. It taught me to be plain spoken and take a full stance on the issues, which I have done in my campaign,” he said.

While a student at the Graduate School of Political Management, Kokesh said he had the opportunity to study under professors with “decades of experience” and that wisdom has helped him during his campaign.

“The important background in political science is important when you are applying it to how people think. I really think having the kind of incredible minds that were absorbed in the process helps,” he said.

Kokesh, who is running on a platform that advocates for “principles of good government,” said that he believes the Republican Party’s identity is shifting as a result of the opinions of the base of the party, the constituents.

“The liberal-conservative labels are completely irrelevant. It does us a disservice. It is a divide and conquer mentality. The identity of the Republican Party is shifting because of the base of the party, not the leadership,” he said.

Kokesh has pledged that if elected, he will not accept the full Congressional salary of around $174,000 per year, but rather will only accept the national average salary of $50,000. He has challenged other Republican candidates to do the same.

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