GOSHEN — Democratic U.S. House hopeful Brendan Mullen hit the campaign trail in Goshen on Tuesday, touting his U.S. Army background and business experience, key themes in his bid.
Serving in Iraq, embedded with Iraqi soldiers, he learned how to work with others in the most trying of situations, underscoring his assertion that he’d be a bipartisan player in Congress, able to ease political gridlock. As one of just a handful of U.S. soldiers working with 1,000 Iraqi soldiers to fend of the terrorist group al-Qaida, you learn to overcome cultural differences quickly.
“The only way we did it is working together,” Mullen told a luncheon gathering of the Goshen Noon Kiwanis Club. “Missions, raids, patrols — every single day we were working together.”
The U.S. Military Academy grad from South Bend, vying for the 2nd District U.S. House seat, also cited his experience after leaving the military, helping launch a Washington, D.C. consulting firm with a West Point friend. That sort of experience, Mullen maintains, connects him to the struggles of small-business owners, all the better in advocating for their needs if elected.
The firm quickly grew and “before we knew it, I had a ton of gray hair and 110 employees across the country working for us,” he said. He’s since launched his own consulting firm.
Mullen is locked in an intense battle for the U.S. House seat with Republican Jackie Walorski, a former Indiana House member from the Jimtown area who has derided the Democrat as a Washington, D.C. “insider” with “liberal values.” Libertarian Joe Ruiz of Mishawaka is also running.
Mullen, making his first bid for public office, had strong words of his own for Walorski during Tuesday’s stop. He has derided her as a “tea party” candidate, meaning to paint her as an unbending GOP partisan, and he returned to the theme in Goshen.
Mullen’s political path is “clearer,” he said, while Walorski follows the “dark path the tea party wants to walk down.” Walorski has rejected the characterization, saying she has and would work with politicians of all stripes, that she’s an “independent voice.”
Mullen, a conservative Democrat, also emphasized what he says is his middle-of-the-road approach, saying he’d likely anger both his Democratic and Republican friends. “Because I’m going to be a representative voice for the entire spectrum,” he said.
He took specific pains to distance himself from liberal U.S. Rep. Nancy Pelosi, a Democrat from California who’s become a lightening rod of Republican criticism. Electing “Nancy Pelosi Democrats” and “tea party Republicans,” he said, will hamper efforts to reach middle ground in addressing things like Social Security and Medicare reform.
“We need steadiness,” Mullen said.
Walorski addressed the Goshen Kiwanis group late last month.