By Zak Coeman
Mike O’Brien announced his candidacy for Congress at a rally held at the Kalamazoo County Democratic Party headquarters on Saturday. He will be running as the Democratic Party’s nominee for Michigan’s Sixth District in the U.S. House of Representatives against either the incumbent Fred Upton or his Republican challenger Jack Hoogendyk in upcoming elections in November.
O’Brien, a former member of the Marine Corps, highlighted his humble upbringing and experience in the workforce as an average American. Part of his motivation for running comes from his belief that our government was supporting him throughout his life.
“My government was there for me,” O’Brien said. “Who was I? I was nobody and there was my government. It helped me pave the way to what, I believe, has been a wonderful life.”
He emphasized his experience in the work place, drawing himself in contrast to Fred Upton, a career politician. Those in Washington and the career politicians there do not understand the values of the American worker, according to O’Brien.
“I’m an American and I’m a product, truly, of this country,” O’Brien said.
O’Brien said the values of working class America – values of the people of Michigan – are necessary, but missing in Congress. He said people are tired of how Congress has been run.
“We’re sick and tired of the dysfunction, the political games, the brinkmanship and the failed leadership in Congress,” O’Brien said. “I will bring Michigan values and true leadership to Washington, with your help.”
O’Brien accused Upton of blaming the government for the problems of the country when Upton himself is a career politician in government. To O’Brien, government isn’t the problem; it is the people in charge of the government who are the real problem.
“I’ll tell you what I believe: I believe that government cannot be the problem,” O’Brien said. “An institution cannot be a problem. It’s the people at the top of those institutions that are or aren’t the problem. The problem isn’t government. The problem is failed leadership.”
Democratic candidates have not done well in previous elections in the district. This is because voters have seen Fred Upton as a relatively moderate politician, but that is no longer the case, according to Mark Miller, the Democratic Party Chair for the Sixth District. Upton is now a far right Republican said Miller.
“It’s our job, to make sure that the voter’s perception catches up with reality, that he’s no longer that good moderate fit to the district, which is a moderate district,” Miller said.
O’Brien acknowledged that it will be difficult to defeat Upton due to Upton’s large monetary resources and support from interest groups. Money does matter in elections, said O’Brien. However, it does not win elections on its own.
“Money can’t vote. People vote. Issues vote. Policy votes,” O’Brien said. “Most importantly, our shared values vote.”
O’Brien closed the rally with a call to action for his supporters. People getting involved and getting their friends to the polls on election day will be necessary for his campaign to be successful.
“Southwest Michigan could do, should do, and will do what this entire country needs,” O’Brien said. “We can change the country.”