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Editor's Notebook
April 7, 2020

2/17/2020 1:15:00 PM
Arizona candidate cites NV influences
Martin says his early years in Jennings gives him a big edge
Even though the Arizona primary is six months away, Brandon Martin has already been campaigning hard in that state’s 2nd District.—Submitted Photos
+ click to enlarge
Even though the Arizona primary is six months away, Brandon Martin has already been campaigning hard in that state’s 2nd District.—Submitted Photos
Brandon Martin, left, makes a campaign appearance with former major league baseball great Curt Schilling recently in southern Arizona.
+ click to enlarge
Brandon Martin, left, makes a campaign appearance with former major league baseball great Curt Schilling recently in southern Arizona.
Two years ago, Brandon Martin came close to winning the Republican Party's nomination for U.S. Congress in Arizona's 2nd District.

This year, the North Vernon native is running again - with more campaign experience, more optimism and more determination.

And the opposition this time is probably not nearly as formidable as Martin faced in the 2018 GOP primary, though there is still time for candidates to file in Arizona. That state's primary isn't until Aug. 4 with early voting starting in July.

"I'm very optimistic," Martin said via telephone from his home in Sierra Vista, Ariz., a city about 10 miles north of the Mexican border. "I have put together a strong campaign, I have the endorsements of multiple mayors and others, such as Curt Schilling, and I have a lot more name recognition than two years ago."

Schilling is a former major league baseball star who played three seasons with the Arizona Diamondbacks and was co-MVP of the 2001 World Series, so his endorsement is big for Martin.

"Curt is a hero in Arizona," Martin noted.

Martin could be considered a hero, too. After graduating from Jennings County High School in 2003, he joined the Army and served in Afghanistan in 2005 and 2006.

"After 9/11 (in 2001), I became more interested in national security and then even more so from the experience I gained while I was in Afghanistan," he answered when asked what inspired him to run for Congress. "I got interested in foreign policy then, too."

Martin was among the U.S. forces searching for Osama Bin Laden, the terrorist who masterminded the 9/11 attacks. Martin's specialty was interrogations and he later trained others in the same field.

After his discharge Martin continued that work as a civilian under contract to the Army, then left that job two years ago when he ran for Congress the first time so as not to be in conflict with the Hatch Act.

Since then, Martin has been working as an independent contractor and the head of Keepers of Liberty, a veteran-run nonprofit that he says educates the public on the Constitution.

It's not surprising that Martin calls himself a constitutionalist.

"The only way to keep America the greatest country in the world and keep our freedoms and liberty is to strictly follow the Constitution and to educate people about it," he said. "Many people don't understand the Constitution or haven't even read it. To quote Benjamin Franklin, 'We have a republic if we can keep it.' It's up to us to make sure we keep it."

It's not surprising, as well, that Martin, like virtually all Republicans in Congress or who are seeking office, is a backer of President Trump.

"I strongly support President Trump," he said. "Whether you agree with his personal behavior or not, just look at the man's policies and what he has accomplished, especially with our economy. It's impressive."

Arizona's 2nd District borders Mexico. Martin favors the president's push for a border wall and says most people in his district agree.

"Where I live is ground zero for the border issue. We know better than anyone that a wall is needed," he said.

The son of Lisa Woods, who still lives in North Vernon, and the late Steven Martin, Brandon Martin says he was shaped greatly by his time growing up in Jennings County.

"My grandfather, Gary Welton, was a state trooper and a big influence on me," he said. "He was the greatest man I've ever known."

Martin also cites his Boy Scout leaders, Dave Shaw and Dan Wright; his first employers, P.D. and Darren Mills; his high school football coaches, Jerry Bland and Rick Zimmerman; and his high school principal, Charles "Chuck" Hurley.

"Mr. Hurley was tough but fair," Martin recalled. "He would always be at our football games and come out on the field to talk to us after the game. Then when he got ill, I went to visit him several times at his home. He always asked me how I did in the last football game."

Martin believes that background has proven invaluable to him over the years.

"Growing up in North Vernon with my mother and all the other salt of the earth people and good influences showed me what it takes to be a good man and how to follow principles that have helped me so much after getting out in world," he said

Martin didn't start playing football until he was in the eighth grade at Jennings County Middle School. He usually played tight end on offense, his favorite position, and defensive end on the other side of the ball. He was later an assistant high school football coach for two years when he was stationed in Massachusetts.

"Football was my passion before I went into the military," he said.

Now politics is front and center for Martin, along with his 8-year-old daughter, Isabella.

The incumbent in Martin's district is Ann Kirkpatrick, a Democrat who flipped the seat from Republican hands in 2018. Before her, Republican Martha McSally was the district's two-term U.S. Representative who left to run unsuccessfully for U.S. Senate in 2018. McSally, however, ended up in the Senate when she was appointed to fill Arizona's other seat last December. She is running for that position in a special election being held this year. McSally generated some controversy during the recent presidential impeachment trial when she called a television reporter "a liberal hack."

Kirkpatrick, meanwhile, previously represented Arizona's 1st District for three terms.

"Kirkpatrick is a political opportunist," Martin scoffed.

Running a Congressional campaign takes considerable funding. Martin plans a rally in Jennings County in two-and-a-half weeks to raise what he calls "seed money."

That event will be at 2 p.m. on Saturday, March 7, at the Community Building at the Jennings County Fairgrounds. "Representing Arizona with Indiana roots and values" is the theme of the rally.

"It will be a tough race if I win the primary and get to go up against Kirkpatrick," Martin says. "But I'm already campaigning hard, which is what it takes. I'm ready to go to work for the people of Arizona's 2nd District and for the people of America."

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