MONTPELIER, Vt. (AP) – State auditor Thomas Salmon, a U.S. Navy reservist, said Thursday he’s been called to active duty in the Middle East but will run for re-election anyway.

Salmon, 44, a petty officer with a Seabees unit based in Brunswick, Maine, would be the first Vermont statewide elected official in memory to be deployed to active-duty military service.

Salmon, who departs Sunday, said he goes first to Gulfport, Miss., for training in advance of deployment “in support of Operation Enduring Freedom” – the official U.S. military name for the war in Afghanistan.

The son of former Gov. Thomas Salmon said that despite the deployment with a Naval Mobile Construction Battalion – which is expected to last up to nine months – he plans to seek a second term in November.

“With the Navy’s permission, I hope to be in regular, but limited, communication with my office in Montpelier, where our staff of professionals has an ambitious work plan to tackle during my absence,” he said in a letter to Gov. Jim Douglas and legislative leaders.

“I am confident that they will be able to adequately handle the demands of the office with occasional guidance from me as permitted.”

Military rules limit the role Salmon could play in running his office from abroad and they forbid active campaigning, he said. He said he hoped to have surrogates speak for him in the campaign.

To hold elective office at all while on active duty with the Navy requires permission from the secretary of the Navy. Salmon said he received the permission verbally Wednesday.

A Navy spokeswoman, Lt. Candice Tresch, said she had no information Thursday and wouldn’t be able to comment before Friday.

Salmon, a Rockingham Democrat, said in an interview he is confident his office, with a staff of about a dozen, can continue to operate well in his absence.

He said he had been reluctant to call attention to his possible deployment because of his junior role in the Navy.

“I’m only an enlisted guy. I show up, shut up, follow directions, probably cut my hair to a quarter inch… We’ve had more than 3,500 Vermonter called to serve in this war. I’m not that special.”

In 2006, Salmon won the auditor’s office by the slimmest of margins, beating incumbent Randy Brock in a recount. Brock says he hasn’t decided whether to challenge Salmon this year.

“To be honest, I have some reluctance to run against someone who is serving his country, possibly in a war zone,” Brock said. “And he is someone who is not in a position to be able to respond in a normal campaign debate.

“I certainly wish him well,” Brock added. “I realize it’s a difficult time for both him and his family and congratulate him on his willingness to serve.”

AP-ES-06-19-08 1750EDT

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