A New Generation Runs for Congress: Jesse Kelly (R), AZ Special Election

A New Generation Runs for Congress: Jesse Kelly (R), AZ Special Election

Meet Generation V, the young Veterans of the long war. 

They return now, fully vested in the system and confident of their ability to make it better. Unlike their unfortunate young counterparts in the Occupy movement, these heroic All-American men and women, who represent the best among us, choose to make their voice heard in civil ways and in tribute to what we have accomplished as a nation. 

Like Kennedy, Ford, H.W. Bush and many others of the Greatest Generation, and like the brothers in arms who followed after Korea and Vietnam, they know full well what service means and the responsibility it carries.

In 1975, nearly 70% of Capitol seats were held by veterans of World War II and Korea. Today, the Congress has the fewest Veterans in its history.  Just 20% of those on Capitol Hill today have served in the military (25 in the Senate and 90 in the house), and even fewer are combat veterans.

But a new generation of agents of change are on their way, determined to fix what ails us. By returning to the sound policies that put the nation–not special interests–first, they know they can right the ship-of-state and steer it far from harm’s way.

Jesse is not a terribly common name but not an unknown one either. Plenty of the famous and some of the infamous have donned it proudly. It comes from the Hebrew Yishay, or God’s gift. In the Bible, “Jesse” is the Father of David. This was the same David who stood alone and conquered the formidable giant, Goliath, when he threatened to overwhelm the people of Israel and later became King of the Israelites.

Out in the American West, beyond the great divide, a young Generation V candidate named Jesse Kelly has ridden onto the political scene to stand up for a new generation. This generation is suffering from the effects of liberties lost to an ever-expanding government, but is one which is now awakened and showing an increasing unwillingness to relinquish those God given rights.

Thirty-year-old Jesse Kelly of Tucson, Arizona, is among those who see it, get it, and he is ready to lead in the charge in the June 12th‘s Special Election in Arizona’s Eighth Congressional District, to finish the Gabrielle Giffords term. In the fall, Kelly will run for Congress in Arizona’s newly created Second Congressional District. Kelly recently told Breitbart News, “I can’t sit idly by and complain while my community and my country suffer. The time is now. I am committed and this is my calling at this point in my life. It is not a career I aspire to; it is not a life-long dream. It is simply my way to give back and try to fix it before it is too late.”

It is a great sign that this generation is willing to take on the David vs Goliath-like task of re-purposing a government and re-positioning a country of unlimited potential. At six-foot, eight-inches tall, Jesse appears more like Goliath than David: a lanky working-class kid whose blue collar roots were well formed in the old mill town of Steubenville, Ohio. 

Steubenville, a once bustling railroad stop between Cincinnati and Pittsburgh, held the dubious honor of being the fastest shrinking city in America when the plants of the great Industrial Revolution rusted over. Today, its population is half what it was at its peak in the 1940s, when the industrial might of the war effort reached its climax. The Kellys of Ohio were an early part of that piece of American might, but they were also victims of its slow decline. By the late 1980s, Don and Lisa Kelly began searching for a new place to make their living and finally, like so many before them, they headed West.

After scouring the West for the right place to seek their fortune and raise their family, the Kellys, with eleven-year-old Mikki and nine-year-old Jesse in tow, settled in the Big Sky Country of Montana, choosing the Treasure State city of Bozeman as their destination. As the Reagan revolution waned, the family worked toward their American dream. Jesse spent his formative teen years here, as the family endeavored to stay above the rising water of a weak economy. Don Kelly, a construction worker, began flipping houses on the side to create a next egg, while Lisa worked as a secretary in the local school. With money tight, Jesse took many after-school jobs: washing dishes, cars, and later golf clubs. Finally, when he was old enough, he followed the family tradition of underground construction, digging ditches like his father had and his father before him.

Jesse was admittedly a very average student, loving history and science but bored and unchallenged by the formal process. His great interest was in people, and he was an avid reader who consumed books of every kind. Like all teens, he just wanted to blend in, but because of his awkward height, he always stood out. It was a burden that bothered him greatly but also one which continually challenged him to be tougher and better.

After a year in college, the last peaceful year between the Cold War and the War on Terror, Jesse,seeking a challenge, announced to his family that he would be joining “The Few, The Proud.” The patriotic Kellys had reservations but respected young Jesse’s decision. He tested well for the Corps and was presented with nearly every option available. But the working-class kid had a working-class dream: to pursue and practice the most true and honest purpose of the Corps, infantry rifleman.

By virtue of the buddy system, his high school friend Jesse Majxner and Jesse left Bozeman and headed south to the west coast Marine Corps Recruit Depot. There in beautiful San Diego the two Jesses would revel in 13 weeks of organized and masterful hell in which you are changed forever and for the better by the real-life Masters of the Universe, the Marine Corps Drill Instructors. In sunny Southern California, just minutes from the bronzed bodies of Mission Beach, you are transformed in a legendary process. You enter as a regular civilian and, thirteen-weeks later, you have become a crucial and well-trained part of the greatest fighting force ever known to mankind.

So it was here, in the summer of 2000, that Jesse Kelly began his transformation from sideline spectator in the great experiment of democracy to active participant. And it was here that Jesse’s inherent determination was sharpened to a razor’s edge.  His love of country became a permanent affair, and the motto Semper Fidelis–“Always Faithful”–became his guidepost. The Bozeman boy was fast becoming a man. Upon graduation from boot camp, it was off to Camp Pendleton where the true trade of the Marines is learned: forced marches, amphibious landings, jungle warfare and the constant improvement of professional soldier skills. After basic training, Jesse and Jesse defied lottery odds and ended up together, again, in the garden spot that is Twentynine Palms, California. The base is often referred to as “The Gates of Hell.” There, in the Joshua Tree forest of the Mojave Desert, the Jesses wound up in the same battalion, company, platoon and squad. Two treasures of the Treasure State bound together by friendship and fate. Soon, their journey would take an interesting and historic twist.

On September 11, 2001 the Marines of the 1st Battalion, 7th Marines, Alpha Company, in the barracks of Twentynine Palms, sat in stunned silence as they watched events on the East coast unfold before them in living color. There, with tear-stained faces, these young Marines watched as our world changed forever and their role as soldiers soon became the reality of war. Payback is hell, they say, and these Marines were determined and ready to dispense it in full doses. They went to Kuwait to stage, then on to fight their way through the Iraqi countryside and into ancient Babylon, now Baghdad.  Before Jesse left the comfort of Kuwait and crossed the line into Iraq in the now famous “invasion launch,” he made another determined decision. Jesse gave himself to his Savior as his father had done some twenty years earlier before he left Ohio to take his family into an uncertain future, far away. Now son, like father, was spiritually prepared for whatever hand fate would deal him.

Corporal Jesse Kelly held one of the most coveted and important leadership positions on earth–Squad Leader. Mister high-school mediocre was now leading young baby-faced soldiers in battle and taking and executing combat. Twenty-one-year-old Jesse Kelly was now the “old man,” and the younger Marines were counting on him to make tough decisions in the blink of an eye. Not the kind of stuff you learn in a construction ditch or a college classroom, but the hardest stuff of all; this was life and death.

After seizing Baghdad, Jesse and some fellow Marines were assigned to work with a Special Forces Green Beret group housed in a palace in the northern suburb of the city. Here, Jesse and his team acted as escorts and patrols for the Beret’s  intelligence gathering and psychological ops activities. Once again, the same burden that shadowed Jesse’s youth raised its ugly head. When he most wanted to blend in, he stuck out like a sore thumb. Six feet, eight-inches of US Marine was an insurgent’s dream. Attention to detail is a well-known Marine’s trait, and Corporal Jesse Kelly was fast becoming the most attentive man in all of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

The Jesses rotated out of the fight in 2004, back to Twentynine Palms. Kelly was now approaching the end of his four-year commitment and made the decision to finish his service in the Corps and rotate back into the civilian world from which he came. Jesse sought out the quiet peacefulness of the high Sonoran Desert town of Tucson, Arizona.

Jesse’s parents had, by now, built and sold enough houses and saved enough money to start their own construction company, and in 1998, Don and Lisa put their stake in the ground and founded Don Kelly Construction, Inc. By pursuing the American dream through the sweat of their brow, they created a substantial enterprise which would grow to employ hundreds while doing business across several western states. Bozeman, Montana had been good to the Kellys and, as a tribute to their success, Bozeman would always remain their headquarters.

So, the Marine who had dug and lived in his share of foxholes and ditches returned to join the growing family business. Jesse was now a graduate of the world’s finest leadership training and was excited to demonstrate his acquired skills and take on responsibilities.  He chose to work out of Tucson. To improve his business skill-set, Jesse also took classes at the local Pima Community College. Apart from those hours in the classroom, Jesse spent many isolated and lonely evenings by himself, reading and decompressing from combat. Gone were his comrades in arms, and being in a new place with no real connections was another tough adjustment. That would soon change with the entry of a diminutive figure — five-foot two-inch Aubrey Taylor — an all American girl and scholarship gymnast attending the University of Arizona.

God works in mysterious ways. Alone and lonely and by total “accident,” Jesse found his match in life. There was no turning back on this particular mission for this combat Marine and, again, Jesse ran towards the action. Love and commitment soon followed, and before God on July 29, 2006, Jesse Kelly added “adoring husband” to his fast growing list of accomplishments.

But the restless 26-year-old continued to surprise those who knew him best. Not long after the 2008 election, Jesse Kelly got suspicious, and then he got worried about the new administration in Washington. What he knew and everything he learned about their agenda and rhetoric made him uncomfortable, at best. The new President was one thing, but the radical control that had descended over the Capitol was alarming. Very soon, Jesse Kelly decided to do something very few men contemplate at the age of twenty-seven: he would launch a campaign for Congress. Like his determined enlistment in the Marines, Jesse once again took the bit and, shattering conventional wisdom, rushed into the fight.

In 2010 an unknown, six-foot-eight-tall 28-year-old former Marine came within a handful of votes of upsetting Gabrielle Giffords–a sitting popular congresswoman who was thought to be one of the Democratic party’s rising stars. Three extra days were needed to decide the ultimate outcome –the vote was that close. If not for the Libertarian who garnered almost ten thousand votes of his own, it was pretty clear that upstart favorite Jesse Kelly would be a sitting congressman, and Giffords would be preparing for her Senatorial bid for retiring John Kyl’s seat. But it was not to be. The savvy Giffords scratched out a hard fought win by a few thousand votes. The local girl had defeated the previously unknown Kelly, but not by much.

Since then, we all know too well how fate has played its ugly hand, leading us to a place where politics rarely must go. The messy congressional reality now in play in Tucson is a series of primaries and elections to occur over a seven-month period. Jesse Kelly  recently won the Republican primary for the Special Election on June 12th that will fill the seat once held by the now retired Giffords.

The person elected in June will only serve until the November election, and then it’s up for grabs. Conventional wisdom is that the winner of the June election will probably carry the next go-round a few months later, but there is no certainty. This has created, among other things, a fundraising nightmare. Jesse Kelly, now thirty-years-old, an even bigger underdog than he was two years ago, is in one corner; in the other, sixty-six-year-old Ron Barber, Gifford’s former assistant.

Barber is, by all accounts, a decent guy and he too was wounded at the shootings in Tucson. At sixty-six and with a nice pension from his 35 years as a public employee, one has to wonder what vision and change a retired career bureaucrat would bring.  By most accounts, even his own initially, Barber was here to place-hold the volatile seat until a longer term competitive candidate could be found in the future; hence Barber’s “keep your powder dry” strategy and his aversion to one-on-one debates. At this point in time, with early ballots to be cast in just a few weeks, Barber is said to be considering just one debate to take place outside of the congressional district.

Barber has the expected support from the liberal media in Tucson, along with that of the well-known liberal national media. This bias has given Barber a distinct advantage as the “odds on” favorite. He also has the long-armed support of Giffords’ broad contacts across the land. That support, combined with her innate popularity, make for a steep climb. There is also the money machine that is Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, Giffords’ closest Washington friend who now runs the Democratic National Committee, the fundraising machine of the party. Schultz has sworn to keep the seat for Giffords as a personal quest, so we can assume that means a blank check, and Nancy Pelosi has already held a fundraiser for Ron Barber, well attended by the Who’s Who of the Democratic Party.

If that were not enough, the reluctant candidate, Barber, has now quietly begun to insist that this should be a civil campaign. That, of course, is the “code” that was test-floated after the Tucson shootings. Expect the “civil discourse” mantra to be injected into every discussion in this campaign and all others between now and November. 

Jesse Kelly is up against all odds. But Kelly could care less about the odds. Also, Kelly appears to be without the immense ego often seen in those who live for public office, probably because he considers it “service to his country” and not an elite position of power. Kelly has never aspired to such trappings. He is simply a young guy who is terribly disappointed with the system and on a crusade to fix the problem.

If others his age don’t step-up, there will be nothing left for them to hold onto.  That is what motivates him. Jesse loves his country and genuinely believes he owes it to his generation to get the house “back in order.” Once those repairs are in place, Kelly wants to return to his young family and his family’s business. Jesse Kelly is beholden to NO ONE, and that appears to make both sides of the aisle a little nervous. 

Jesse Kelly was born the year his political idol Ronald Wilson Reagan took office as the 40th President of the United States. Reagan was an agent of change for a nation adrift. Jesse Kelly and his generation see their nation adrift, once again, and want to do the same thing. Kelly has seen the light of conservatism, and the honor of the brand is something he wears proudly with complete conviction, regardless of the political climate.

“Like Reagan, you have to stand up for what you believe in and you have to stand your ground, even in the most aggressive assault on your character and beliefs. There’s no retreat and certainly, no surrender” says Kelly, who will not pander for political expediency. “It is all or nothing; country or catastrophe; commitment instead of the convenience.”

Kelly continued, saying that “living up to a budget, honoring the hard-working folks by spending their hard-earned money wisely and getting the clumsy government out of the way so the American entrepreneur can run free in the highly-competitive world of free enterprise is what makes America great .”

“Pretty simple stuff that will work if honest citizen politicians will step-up to the challenge,” Kelly said. “Fifty years of compromise got us into this mess and the last thing anyone needs right now is a hand-picked, career government employee who will march in lockstep with his party. There is not more time to waste.”

Who knows if this young Son of the West can pull off the political upset of a lifetime. Because the young Jesse Kelly chooses to run the good race and fight the good fight, perhaps a new generation of women and men will be inspired to do the same. That is a gift and a legacy that even the Gipper would be honored to be associated with.

Jesse Kelly’s campaign website features some of his speeches which reflect these values.