Mike Gallagher recalls the sense of accomplishment he felt while giving books, soccer balls and school supplies to Iraqi children in the last days of his U.S. Marine Corps deployment in the Al Anbar Province in Iraq in 2008.
To Gallagher, now running as a Republican for U.S. Congress, those days in Iraq highlight the positive influence the United States can have on real people across the globe.
It also highlights for him the detriments of “leading from behind,” which he portrays as the disengagement of career politicians from the people they represent and America’s backsliding reputation around the world.
Today, the village Gallagher served in and helped stabilize has been overtaken by the Islamic State.
Gallagher blames the situation squarely on the policies of President Barack Obama and presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton, who was secretary of state.
His frustration over the Democratic administration’s handling of foreign policy has shaped the core message of his campaign: Restoring the country’s dominance as the No. 1 world power, dismantling incentives for lawmakers to prioritize elections over policies and strengthening the U.S. economy.
“We lost the peace in Iraq, and we sacrificed so much. We had politicians just flush it down the drain,” Gallagher said.
Gallagher didn’t set out to run for public office, though the former counter-intelligence officer came to know many lawmakers during his time as a staffer for the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and leading foreign policy briefings for Gov. Scott Walker’s presidential campaign.
The 32-year-old veteran had recently earned his doctorate degree and returned to his hometown, Green Bay, where his obstetrician father had helped build and, later, sell a local restaurant chain, Gallagher’s Pizza.
Gallagher took a job as a senior marketing strategist for Breakthrough Fuel, a supply chain management company, and hoped to land a gig as an adjunct instructor for the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay.
That’s when several people from the community asked whether he’d consider running for office to replace outgoing Republican Reid Ribble, who isn’t seeking re-election.
Twenty business leaders from the Green Bay area signed a letter urging Gallagher to jump into the race. They later distributed the letter to the media, and a few weeks later Gallagher officially launched his campaign.
Among those backing Gallagher was his new boss, Breakthrough Fuel CEO Craig Dickmann.
The two had met almost two years earlier at a Green Bay business luncheon. Gallagher had been invited to speak on national security issues.
Dickman said he was so impressed with Gallagher that he offered him a job on the spot.
“I saw a guy that was extraordinary bright, articulate, a natural leader, a real communicator and who had a good sense of what was going on around him,” Dickman said.
Gallagher said the decision to run for office came down to a strong sense of duty and a compulsion to act rather than apathetically watch the country’s problems go unresolved.
“The more I thought about it, the more I felt I had been blessed to have a lot of experiences to serve in Marine Corps and intelligence community. Given the challenges facing the country, I knew I’d regret it in five years if I didn’t step up and try to be part of something better,” Gallagher said.
If elected, Gallagher pledges within 100 days to introduce laws requiring Congress to pass a balanced budget, blocking pay for lawmakers if they don’t pass a budget and ending congressional pensions.
“At the source of all our problems, foreign and domestic, is the symptom of the same disease: Politicians who care more about (their own) careers than solutions,” Gallagher said.
Gallagher said he would treat his own time in public office as another deployment, meaning it’s a temporary position with a clear objective.
“I don’t care about the consequences politically. I just want to be honest with the people of the 8th District,” he said.
Lives in: Green Bay
Occupation: Senior Global Market Strategist at Breakthrough Fuel
Experience: Gallagher served seven years on active duty as a Marine Corps counterintelligence/human intelligence officer and regional affairs officer for the Middle East North Africa, deploying twice to Al Anbar Province, Iraq, and earning the rank of Captain. He also served as the lead Republican adviser for Middle East, North Africa and counterterrorism on the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee before serving as the national security adviser on Governor Scott Walker’s presidential campaign.
Campaign website: www.mikeforwisconsin.com
1. Cutting regulations on businesses and simplifying the tax code in effort to improve jobs and the economy.
2. Improve national security by building up the nation’s military, attacking radical Islamic terrorists and supporting the country’s allies, especially Israel.
3. Reduce the nation’s debt by cutting spending, streamlining government and increasing revenues through economic growth.