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Mullen seeks election to Congress

Kristen Durbin | Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Duty, honor, country.


As a West Point graduate, Democratic congressional candidate Brendan Mullen abides by those three words, which “reverently dictate what you ought to be, what you will be and what you can be,” according to a famous quote from Gen. Douglas MacArthur.


Mullen said that quote and his personal connection to it also drive his campaign to become Indiana’s next representative for the 2nd Congressional District, which includes South Bend.


“[Duty, honor and country] are your rallying points when your faith is forlorn and you’ve lost hope,” Mullen said. “This is a case where I apply those words to why I’m doing this for the community that gave me more blessings than I deserve.”


A South Bend native, Mullen dreamed of playing football for the Irish, but his collegiate athletic career took a different path when he chose to attend the U.S. Military Academy.


“When you grow up a mile away all you wanted to do was run through the tunnel [in Notre Dame Stadium],” Mullen said. “[Former Irish coach Lou] Holtz didn’t call, but the Army team did … and before I knew it I had a shaved head and was shining boots at 2 a.m. behind the walls of the Academy.”


After graduating from West Point, Mullen served in South Korea and Iraq. He said his Army service forced him to cooperate with fellow soldiers from “all walks of life, religions, personalities and political views that encompassed America” on behalf of their country.


“I as a soldier know full well that when you command young men and women in stressful environments, stateside or overseas, you all don’t really agree 100 percent on everything,” he said. “I have to take my experiences from serving with companies and apply them to my work in the halls of Congress.”


Mullen said the collaborative nature of his military experience gives him a greater understanding of the significance of working together in Congress than many of its current members.


“In Congress today, we have professional politicians that have spent years litigating issues, but we don’t have businessmen, nor do we have folks who have stitched that flag and served honorably,” Mullen said. “Having only 20 percent of elected officials who have worn that uniform is unacceptable because they don’t know how to work together in stressful environments with people from different walks of life.”


As a moderate Democrat, Mullen said he hopes to continue the longstanding tradition of moderate representation from his district established by former representatives John Brademas, Jack Hiler, Tim Roemer, Chris Chocola and Joe Donnelly.


He said his primary opponent, Republican Jackie Walorski, has not espoused the same moderate mindset in her campaign.


“I’m fearful Jackie Walorski will not represent that moderate voice because she’s wrapped herself around that Tea Party flag so tightly that it’s difficult to move beyond that record and the finger-in-your-face legislative manner she’s had,” Mullen said.


But as a moderate Democrat, Mullen said he understands his moderation will frustrate constituents from both ends of the political spectrum.


“When I launched my bid to run 18 months ago at WNDU, I stopped myself at the glass doors and definitively said, ‘What am I getting myself into?'” Mullen said. “The day I walk into this, 50 percent of folks are going to dislike me because I put a ‘D’ next to my name. Meanwhile, I’m trying to get into an institution that eight percent of Americans approve of, [Congress,] so I’m going from 100 percent down to dirt.”


That unacceptably low approval rating for Congress, Mullen said, is rooted in the failure of legislators from both the right and the left to collaborate to act on behalf of the people and move the country forward.


“By championing myself as a moderate, I’m trying to thread a needle. But it’s difficult to thread that needle from 50 yards away,” Mullen said. “I know full well I’ll make my Republican and Democrat friends mad at me, but there’s no monopoly on good ideas, so we need to be able to come to the middle and get things done.”


Improving the economy and job creation are priorities for Mullen, but he said achieving those goals will require more equality of opportunity for middle-class Americans and small business owners so they can “continue to have success in chasing the American dream and reigniting it for themselves, their families and their employers.”


“We need to stay laser-focused on the economy and jobs, but the only way to do so is to make sure we level the playing field for middle- and working-class Americans,” Mullen said. “Big Oil and Wall Street have had it tilted in their favor, but that isn’t going to continue to stimulate the economy. The only way to stimulate Main Street economies is to elect people who are willing to work together.”


Notre Dame is the No. 1 employer in the district, and Mullen said he would work hard to represent the University and its hometown in Congress.


“Knowing the University is a bridge to South Bend … if we can continue to bridge that gap and there’s a possibility for federal help with doing so, I’ll be absolutely the first to do it,” Mullen said. “Mayor Pete Buttigieg is a dear friend of mine, and he has a red phone in his office. When he needs to call Washington I’ll be on the other end of it, and when he calls the other red phone for the Senate, [Democratic candidate for Senate] Joe Donnelly will be on the other end of it.”


Although South Bend is the metropolitan center of the district, Mullen said both he and Donnelly must strive to connect with the region’s other communities.


“We’re both South Bend guys, but while South Bend and Notre Dame are extraordinarily important, our work transcends to 10 other counties in the district,” Mullen said. “We must ensure that we have bonds to the outside areas of the district.”

Contact Kristen Durbin at kdurbin@nd.edu