Marines, of course, are trained to take the hill. Then there’s a group of leathernecks who actually have taken that mission to a different level, as in Capitol Hill. The lists of senators and representatives include Marines who served on active duty or in the reserves, and some saw combat. They bring a familiarity with the military, and the Marine Corps in particular, to a Congress whose members with military service represent less than 20 percent of both houses. In fact, the number of veterans serving in the House or Senate has hit its lowest since World War II. But veterans continue to seek office on the Hill and serve the public in government service.
Now comes former Staff Sgt. David Vogt, who caught our attention for his optimism, volunteerism and work ethic, qualities that prompted Marines who worked with him at Camp Pendleton, Calif. — including his commanding officer — to nominate him in 2010 as a candidate for Military Times’ 2010 Marine of the Year. Vogt, a legal services chief just 25 years old at the time, impressed us with his drive and penchant for helping out wherever needed, whether at the base animal shelter, elementary school or the Noncommissioned Officers Association, and Marine Corps Times chose him as Marine of the Year.
Last September, Vogt hung up his uniform and made the cross-country move with his pregnant wife Alicia and their son Joseph to Washington, D.C., where he took a job at the Pentagon as a team leader in the Freedom of Information Act and Privacy Act office at Marine Corps headquarters. The family settled down in Brunswick, Md., a city of 5,000 along the banks of the Potomac River with a commuter rail station, providing a short drive from their home for Vogt to begin his daily commute.
It’s just a few months since Election Day 2012, but with mid-term elections set for next year, Vogt is considering a serious run for the House seat representing Maryland’s 6th Congressional District. “I’ve had that dream and goal long since before the Marine Corps,” says Vogt, whose longterm aspirations extend, as he put it, to the Senate and “down Pennsylvania Avenue.” The district, which stretches from mountainous western Maryland east to Hagerstown and south to Gaithersburg, is represented by freshman Rep. John Delaney, a Democrat and businessman who won the seat in November’s election.
Vogt’s raised the prospects of his possible congressional campaign in a February letter to his friends and associates. While he hasn’t made a final decision, he is getting close to that point, and the earliest he can file and register as a candidate is April 9. If he runs, he will do so as an Independent, opting to avoid the labels, and limitations, of either major party. “I think that’s a position that is going to allow me to do more for the electorate,” he tells us, and “be able to talk to all the voters of both parties.” As a civil service employee, his political affiliation allows him to keep his job. And the likelihood of furloughs this year might give him some extra time for a headstart on a campaign.
With the fiscal cliff a near-certainty, the midterm elections might set voters frustrated by both parties’ inability to resolve the ongoing budget crises more open to different political views and independent candidates. The 6th District, says Vogt, was redrawn in the 2010 Census and now leans more Democrat than Republican but it also has a larger bloc of Independents and even some Libertarians, so even though the current House has no Independents, the time might be ripe for that to change.
Vogt is already thinking ahead to the campaign and various organizations, veterans’ groups and other local associations he will have to meet and court so his constituents — the district has about 460,000 people — will know who he is, understand what he represents and cough up donations he will need for an 18-month campaign. He figures if everyone contributes $5 apiece, that would cover the estimated $2 million needed, at a minimum, for a House campaign.
His wife and extended family “are all very excited” at the prospects of a campaign, Vogt says. But he realizes “it will be the most difficult campaign, because it’s the first one.” He admits, however, “I don’t take losing lightly.” But he’s confident if he decides to run, he would provide voters with a solid and sincere candidate alternative to Delaney, assuming he’d run for reelection. “He’s a businessman, and the majority of the voters don’t relate to businessmen and women,” Vogt says. He hopes to reach out to the district through social media and plans to shake lots of hands and talk with voters at town hall meetings and listen to what’s on their minds, noting, “they are going to want their voices heard” in Washington.
And, with his name pronounced like “vote,” he already has in mind a catchy campaign slogan: “A vote for Vogt is a Vogt for you.”
Know a Marine who has gone above and beyond the call of duty and impressed you and others with his or her professionalism, commitment and concern? Military Times will select five everyday heroes as the 2013 Military Times Service Members for their exceptional service or achievements in 2012. This year’s winners will be announced in June and will be honored by Military Times at a formal awards banquet during an all-expense-paid celebration week in Washington, D.C.
Send us your nominations here.