Some local veterans have joined the fray over a couple of pointed advertisements released this week in north-central Indiana's congressional race.
Jackie Walorski, a Republican from Jimtown, began airing an ad Tuesday that calls Democrat Brendan Mullen a "D.C. insider." The narrator says, "Washington liberals recruited him to move from D.C. to Indiana to run for Congress."
Mullen, who was born and raised in South Bend, called the ad a smear. He graduated from Adams High School in 1996 and moved away to attend the U.S. Military Academy. He served five years on active duty from 2001 to 2006 and was stationed in the Washington area at the end of his service.
He lived in Washington for another five years before moving back to the South Bend area last summer, which is around the time he declared his candidacy for Indiana's 2nd District congressional seat.
Walorski said her piece is not an attack ad, and it's not about Mullen's military service. "I salute all of our military men and women in uniform who risk their lives to serve and protect the United States of America," she said.
But military service has ended up at the center of the debate over Walorski's ad and Mullen's response.
Chad Gibson, an Army veteran from Osceola, is featured in Mullen's response ad.
Gibson attended West Point and fought in the Iraq War, as Mullen did, and delivers some sharp words for Walorski. He calls her a "career politician" and says her ad is "un-American."
Walorski's campaign responded to Mullen's response by sending out a statement from a veteran who sticks up for her.
"As a veteran, I am deeply disappointed that a fellow veteran would condone the name-calling aired in (Mullen's) attack ad," Elkhart resident Bill Rohman, an Air Force veteran, said in the statement.
"We are all Americans, and to engage in such rhetoric is inappropriate for this political race," he said. "Jackie Walorski has a record of supporting veterans during her time in the state legislature and salutes members of the armed forces for their dedicated service to this great country."
Mullen's campaign manager, Andy Reynolds, said the piece featuring Gibson is not an attack ad; it's a comparison of Walorski's history as a state representative and Mullen's service in the Army.
Gibson, who identifies himself as a Republican, spoke to reporters Thursday via conference call to announce the formation of the Veterans for Mullen coalition.
He said he felt he had to speak up when he saw Walorski's ad. "It was difficult for me to understand why she went there," he said.
Joe Ruiz, a Mishawaka Libertarian running for the 2nd District seat, issued a statement saying all candidates should refrain from using attack ads.
Ruiz, who works at the Family and Children's Center, said people want candidates who will stop fighting and start offering solutions.
"Spending thousands of dollars to demonize your opponent is a slap in the face to those of us who struggle," he said. "For every soldier overseas, every single mom, and every man and woman looking for work, I choose to invest my time in them. I would urge Brendan and Jackie to do the same."
Staff writer Kevin Allen: