O’Brien has ‘Herculean task’Published 6:27pm Saturday, April 21, 2012
When commended once for wearing a U.S. flag pin on his suit jacket lapel, Mike O’Brien said, “I don’t have to wear a flag on my lapel — I wear one every day on my arm.”
O’Brien, who announced his candidacy Saturday as the Democrat candidate for the Sixth Congressional District with an eight-stop barnstorming tour, is a former Marine.
O’Brien scheduled eight stops across his district Saturday, including Cassopolis and Benton Harbor. O’Brien spoke to a group of about eight people at the Niles Eagles.
“You guys are here, and that’s what it’s all about,” O’Brien said. “I’m running now in part because of the dysfunction in government. … The childish behavior in Congress right now is about failed leadership.”
O’Brien is hoping to unseat in November St. Joseph’s Fred Upton, a 13-term GOP congressman.
“I’m putting the armor on,” O’Brien said. “It’s a Herculean task. We’re running against a titan. We are running against a career politician.
“Fred Upton has more money than God,” he said. “The dollar can’t vote. Only people can vote.”
The oldest child of a single mother, O’Brien got his first job at age 14.
“When our family was at its toughest times, America stood behind us,” he said. “I’ll never forget that.”
After serving in the Marine Corps, he married his wife, Teresa, and they have a 10-year-old daughter, Rose. He worked his way through college and into a career as a business management consultant.
His family made their dream of owning a small farm come true in the Holland and Fennville areas. They lost the organic farming operation during the economic collapse in 2008.
O’Brien said his No. 1 priority in his campaign is jobs, including growing the renewable energy industry and small farms. He will also focus on creating a “simple and fair” tax policy and streamlining government.
“There’s too much regulation to get started in business,” O’Brien said. “We need to make government more nimble.”
O’Brien is currently a project manager at Herman Miller, where he helps lead development and commercialization of new product designs for the furniture manufacturer. He also worked in real estate development for the trucking company USF Holland and as director of development for offshore wind energy company BlueWater Wind, during which time he served on Gov. Jennifer Granholm’s Offshore Wind Counsel.
O’Brien seeks to challenge Upton on energy policy; the congressman is the chairman of the Committee on Energy and Commerce.
“Congressman Upton is now in the back pocket of special interests,” O’Brien said. “It’s oil and gas, oil and gas.”
O’Brien wants to create renewable energy jobs, instead of “building pipelines to drill more oil,” of which Upton has been a strong proponent.
“Tens of thousands of jobs should be here for renewable energy,” he said. “We have the engineers.”
O’Brien is challenging Upton to six debates — one in each county in his district.
“If Fred Upton believes in democracy like I do, he’ll debate,” O’Brien said. “Each county deserves to be heard.”
O’Brien did not mention his other potential Republican opponent, former state Rep. Jack Hoogendyk of Kalamazoo. Hoogendyk will face Upton in the Republican primary in August.
Upton raised nearly $1 million from January to March this year, according to campaign finance reports released by the Federal Election Commission. That brings his total cash on hand to $2.27 million. Hoogendyk has $56,644 cash on hand.
O’Brien will be in this area again May 7 to visit with the South County Democrats at the Buchanan Moose Lodge at 7 p.m.