by D.E. Smoot, Muskogee Phoenix Staff Writer
A combat veteran awarded two bronze stars for his service in Afghanistan plans to compete for the Republican nomination in the contest to elect the next representative of Oklahoma's 2nd Congressional District.
Jarrin Jackson, an Oologah native who lives in rural Rogers County, said he decided to compete for the post in the fall of 2014 while on the battlefield in Afghanistan. He is competing for a post that will be defended by U.S. Rep. Markwayne Mullin of Westville, who is seeking a third term.
"My decision was made ... when one of my soldiers lost a leg to ISIS and we were not allowed to return fire," said Jackson, who earned the rank of captain before leaving active duty in the U.S. Army. "I learned on that day that we have leaders in Washington ... who are getting soldiers hurt and killed overseas because we are not allowed to win the mission."
Jackson said his core decision to compete for the congressional post "has nothing to do" with Mullin and "and everything to do with the defense of the country." He did, however, criticize the incumbent's record with regard to veterans issues, spending and rapid rise to become part of the Washington establishment.
"He is the consummate politician: He has convinced everyone that he is a small-business man ..., not a politician ..., but yet he has created his own leadership PAC," Jackson said about Mullin's Boots Political Action Committee, which was organized in May 2015. "You only create a leadership PAC if you plan on being in politics — they exist only to influence other politicians."
Jackson insists he is not a single-issue candidate, citing conservative concerns such as the repeal of the Affordable Care Act, improving border security and reduced spending. But as a West Point graduate and a Ranger-qualified officer who commanded more than 500 soldiers at the platoon and company levels, veterans issues clearly rank at the top of his concerns.
"When politicians talk about veterans issues they do so not from a position of expertise, not from the position of solving a problem, they do so because they understand everyone agrees veterans should be helped and get their health care," Jackson said. "The problem is they elect politicians like Rep. Mullin, who posts pictures on Facebook of himself with veterans or says he is going to do a veterans town hall — that doesn't produce results."
As a combat veteran, Jackson, a fifth generation Oklahoman, said he has first-hand experience with the issues veterans face after they transition from active duty to civilian life. Unlike Mullin and other congressmen and women who have no military experience, Jackson said he would bring solutions to the table that address those issues at the front end rather than react to them as they are presented.
"The problem is every congressman is reactionary — they look at a problem as they walk through the door or leave a message on voicemail — and don't get ahead of the problem," Jackson said. "As long as they are reactionary, veterans will continue to suffer."
Jackson said there needs to be a greater focus on veterans as they transition from active duty to civilian life. He said neither the military nor Veterans Affairs take ownership of that process, which contributes to a multitude of problems veterans are forced to face alone after they are discharged.
"I find it ironic that a district that has as many veterans as we do here doesn't have somebody in Washington who will better represent them," Jackson said. "If they want to see real reform ..., they should vote for me."
The filing period for the 2016 congressional races is scheduled for April 13-15. The primary election to select party nominees will be June 28, with a runoff scheduled Aug. 23 if needed.
MEET THE CANDIDATE
- NAME: Jarrin Jackson.
- AGE: 30.
- HOMETOWN: Oologah.
- FAMILY: Wife, Katie; sons Lloyd, 4, and Dale, 1.
- OCCUPATION: U.S. Army veteran, left active duty in 2015.
- EDUCATION: U.S. Military Academy at West Point, 2008 graduate with Bachelor of Science Degree in Military History; U.S. Army Ranger School and Airborne School.
- RELIGIOUS AFFILIATION: Church of Christ.
- HOBBIES: Football, Little League soccer coach, American history.