WASHINGTON (AP) — The first time Art Moore cast a ballot, he filled in the bubble next to his name in California's June primary for a seat in the U.S. House.
The former Army captain, who serves as a major in the Army National Guard and twice deployed to Iraq, believes his decision to remain apart from politics while in the military is a virtue.
"It's because of the necessity to keep a trust relationship with the American people and also civilian leaders who depend on unbiased advice with no questions about loyalties," Moore said.
Moore finished second in the primary election for the Fourth Congressional District, which stretches from the far eastern suburbs of Sacramento to the Nevada border and south to the Fresno area. He faces three-term Rep. Tom McClintock in November. Both are Republicans — in California, the top two primary finishers are on the ballot in the general election regardless of party.
McClintock has made Moore's lack of voting an issue, saying that voters can't be sure what they would get from someone who has shunned politics almost his whole life.
"Since he's never voted, never expressed a political thought before he ran for Congress, I'd say the principal difference between us is that people know where I stand and can count on it," said McClintock, who spent 22 years in the California Legislature and once ran for governor.
Moore, 36, said the decision to forgo all forms of political activity, including voting, was a topic often debated and discussed when he was a student at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. He did not vote while in the regular Army, which he left in 2005, or in the National Guard.
One of Moore's instructors at West Point, Don Snider, said he discussed voting with students every year. He reinforced to them that being an officer means you're a servant of the country and the administration in power.
"In the political domain, one way to be a servant is: Don't create political preferences at the level where you are going to be taking instructions," said Snider, who is now teaching at the U.S. Army War College.
A Defense Department directive to service members encourages them to "carry out the obligations of citizenship." At the same time, they're told not to use their official positions to try to advance a particular political candidate or cause.
Moore's thoughts about voting changed last year, he said, after he ruled out the possibility of returning to the regular Army. He instead decided to move back to Placer County, where he grew up, and some local Republicans approached him about running for Congress.
Moore's candidacy is unique in that he's trying to defeat a conservative from the left at a time when most Republican incumbents are challenged from the right. He calls himself a moderate on social issues.
He lags badly in fundraising, with less than $5,000 in the bank as of June 30, according to the latest Federal Election Commission records. Moore will have to do reasonably well with Republican voters and dominate among Democrats and independents to have a chance against McClintock.
Aware that his lack of voting would be a key issue in the race, Moore's campaign website links to a paper prepared in 2012 for the Army War College that says former military leaders such as Dwight Eisenhower, George C. Marshall and George S. Patton also made a conscious decision not to vote.
The author, Col. Peter Crean, quotes Patton: "I am in the pay of the United States government. If I vote against the administration I am voting against my commander-in-chief. If I vote for the administration in office I am being bought."
Douglas Stuart, a political science professor at Dickinson University in Pennsylvania and an adjunct professor at the Army War College, described Moore's views about voting as "old school."
"This was a very respected tradition up until the second World War," Stuart said. "I think it's become much less common."