House candidate brings unique experiences to race

FAIRFIELD - If campaigns were won by biographies alone, Anthony Woods would probably be in office somewhere.


Instead, Woods is the latest in a tough, crowded field of candidates to declare they will pursue the seat of Rep. Ellen Tauscher, D-Walnut Creek, who is expected to take a job soon in the State Department.


Woods, a Harvard-educated Iraq war veteran who is openly gay, stands out not only for his background but also because he is thus far the only Solano County candidate in the race. The child of a single mother, he often cites that experience and others as evidence that at 28 he is ready for a job most often undertaken by his elders.


'This race is about issues that are extremely personal to me,' he said. 'I spent the first 18 years of my life without health care, with my mom struggling to make ends meet. I know what it is like to fight in Iraq . . . It is important to have people who have perspective on these issues and have dealt with it in a near point in their lives.'


Last year, Woods, a captain in the Army, told his company commander he was gay, ending his military career with an honorable discharge under the 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell Policy.'


It was a decision he agonized over for months, he said, and a point 'pretty late in life' when he came to terms with his sexual identity.


'I knew it would be an extremely costly decision,' he said.


It was. Not only did it end his career, it led the Army to seek reimbursement for the tuition it paid to send Woods to Harvard's Kennedy School of Government.


After Tauscher's nomination in March to become deputy Secretary of State, Woods said he saw an opportunity to 'help shape the debate' on many of the matters that have already shaped his life.


He lists the establishment of universal health care as his top priority, a debate he expects to already be raging in Washington DC by the time a Congressional special election is held. Economic recovery and veterans' aftercare issues round out the top three, he said.


In a race that also includes two sitting state legislators and the current lieutenant governor, Woods still faces the typical first-time candidate hurdles -- raising money, getting endorsements and reaching voters. He acknowledged the challenges and the magnitude of the effort, but seemed unconcerned.


'That's commonplace for everyone. You have to work to demonstrate you are viable, especially as a young candidate,' he said.


A progressive Democrat, he speaks highly of the latest American policies in Iraq, including the establishment of a withdrawal date. He is not hesitant to discuss his life story, but says he also tries to establish that there are policies behind the story.


'This is something Barack Obama also struggled with: He didn't want to be the black candidate, he wanted to be the best candidate who happened to be black,' Woods said. 'I am not the African-American candidate in this race, I am not the gay candidate. I am a candidate in this race who knows what it is like.'

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