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WRAL - "Dole, Hagan vie for favor among veterans"

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Location: Raleigh, NC

WRAL - "Dole, Hagan vie for favor among veterans

The two leading candidates for the U.S. Senate jockeyed for favor among military veterans Friday as they hosted competing campaign events just miles apart.

Both Republican Sen. Elizabeth Dole and Democratic state Sen. Kay Hagan sounded similar messages — declaring their support for better health care and benefits for military personnel and their families.

Hagan said she wanted to increase the military by 100,000, trying to one-up Dole, who has supported the Bush administration proposal to increase the size of the armed forces by about 92,000.

The military, struggling to fill its ranks, has already raised its enlistment bonuses and increased the number of waivers. Hagan said the military could attract more members by providing them with shorter and less frequent deployments and a GI Bill that makes a stint in the military worthwhile

"It's going to help tremendously because there's really an incentive to come into the military from the standpoint of educational opportunities you can have at the end," Hagan, a state senator from Greensboro, said.

Dole questioned Hagan's the timing of Hagan's call for additional troops, noting that military leaders were already working on it.

"It's like picking up on something we had done a year ago," Dole said.

On the GI Bill, Dole supported for a Republican version and helped persuade congressional leaders to include a key provision that would allow veterans to transfer the educational benefits to other members of their family.

"I believe the education benefits provided to our veterans should also be extended to those who support them," Dole said.

Hagan produced former Georgia Sen. Max Cleland, a wounded veteran and former administrator of the United States Veterans Administration, to bolster her credentials Friday.

Cleland mistakenly accused Dole of voting against the GI Bill, sponsored by Virginia Sen. Jim Webb.

Dole had opposed Webb's bill when it was first filed and supported a competing measure co-sponsored by Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C. She later joined many Democrats and GOP counterparts in voting for a compromise measure.

Dole brought out a veteran of her own: her husband, former presidential candidate and Sen. Bob Dole, who was also wounded in battle. She spoke at the Veterans of Foreign Wars post in Cary.

Both families have military roots. Hagan's husband, Chip, is a Vietnam veteran. Both of the political spouses used the GI Bill to go to school. Hagan's father-in-law is a retired two-star general, and her father and brother were in the Navy.

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