SOUTH BEND -- About two dozen local veterans gathered Wednesday on the steps of the St. Joseph County Courthouse to show their support for Democratic congressional candidate Brendan Mullen.
The group, which represented eras from World War II to the current conflict in Afghanistan, stood up for Mullen, in part, because he's also a veteran.
"I believe the military uniform transcends party lines," said Mullen, a Granger resident and Army veteran who fought in the Iraq War.
"Right now in the halls of Congress, we have extraordinary problems, extraordinary obstacles, and everyone in Congress is trying to squeeze the air out of each other," he said. "They're not ready to work for our families and our communities, but just trying to put that partisan rhetoric in front of the flag I fought under, that many of the people behind me fought under, and a lot of your friends and families fought under. It's unacceptable."
Republican Jackie Walorski, of Jimtown, and Mishawaka Libertarian Joe Ruiz also will be on the ballot for the 2nd District congressional seat that U.S. Rep. Joe Donnelly, D-Granger, is leaving to run for Senate.
Joe Kernan, the former South Bend mayor and Indiana governor, said Mullen's military experience has prepared him to be a congressman. Kernan served as a Navy officer from 1969 to 1974 and survived 11 months as a prisoner of war in Vietnam.
"It's fighting in a different way," he said of being a lawmaker. "It's fighting for principle; it is recognizing that you have a responsibility not just to the people in the 2nd District but also to everyone who lives in the United States."
Kernan criticized Walorski's record as a state representative on a couple of old, but still controversial, issues: the Indiana General Assembly's approval of daylight saving time in 2005 and a 75-year lease of the Indiana Toll Road to an Australian-Spanish partnership in 2006.
He accused Walorski of hiding under her desk when it came time for the daylight saving vote, and he characterized the Toll Road lease as a sale to foreign interests. He added that a portion of the $3.8 billion in lease proceeds has funded road construction downstate.
Walorski spokesman Brendon DelToro said she voted against the daylight saving bill five times during the 2005 legislative session.
DelToro said she missed a committee meeting when the bill, by a 6-5 vote, was forwarded to the full House of Representatives, but she had an excused absence because she was lobbying a transportation committee, which was meeting at the same time, to fund a U.S. 31 upgrade.
Furthermore, a different bill that originated in the Senate ended up being the legislation that enacted daylight saving time in Indiana, and DelToro said Walorski introduced a bill in 2006 in an attempt to repeal daylight saving time in the state.
DelToro called the remarks about the Toll Road lease "pretty typical attacks" on the deal.
"I find it interesting," he said. "At a press conference that's supposed to be about veterans and the service they do for our country, which is incredible, they smear Jackie's name."
DelToro added that Mullen didn't even live in Indiana when the legislature was debating daylight saving time and the Toll Road lease.
Mullen was born and raised in South Bend but left in 1996 to attend the U.S. Military Academy.
He graduated from West Point in 2001, was on active-duty service until June 2006 and then lived in Washington, D.C., until moving back to the South Bend area last summer.
Mullen was in the military during the entire period the General Assembly was considering daylight saving time and the Toll Road lease, his campaign manager Andy Reynolds said, "and he was in Iraq during a large portion of that debate."
Staff writer Kevin Allen: