Profile: Mike Gallagher (R), 8th Congressional District candidate

Tom Nelson and Mike Gallagher

Wisconsin’s 8th Congressional District race is considered one of the most watched in the country. Democrat Tom Nelson, the Outagamie County Executive, and Republican Mike Gallagher, a former Marine from Green Bay, are vying for the seat of Republican Reid Ribble, who endorsed Gallagher after deciding not to seek re-election.

Both candidates went to Princeton University but are very different in their assessment of what needs to happen in Washington on behalf of people in the 8th Congressional District.

Gallagher is a self-proclaimed “political outsider” who wants to give the boot to what he calls “dangerous politicians in Washington.”

Mike Gallagher lives in Green Bay and is the senior global market strategist for the energy and supply chain management company Breakthrough Fuel.

Gallagher was working on Gov. Scott Walker’s presidential campaign, leading foreign policy briefings on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and moved back to Green Bay to take his current job as Walker’s campaign ended.

But Gallagher’s international relations career really began the day he graduated from Princeton, where he studied Arabic and the Middle East.

“Against the advice of my parents, I joined the Marine Corps the day I graduated from college. I ended up doing about seven years on active duty — did two combat deployments to Western Iraq as a commander of a team of Marines in direct support of an intra-battalion 2007, 2008, and that was really the most profound experience in my life.”

Gallagher was deployed near the border of Syria and says it was safe and under control when he left.

Now that ISIS has taken control of that area, he blames the Obama administration for what he calls “gross negligence on the part of American leadership,” which he says “helped the terrorists succeed.”

“They know they can cross this president’s red lines with impunity, and the longer we allow that to go on the more unstable the world gets and the less safe we get here at home, even in northeast Wisconsin.”

Gallagher’s experience working at the national counter-terrorism center and the Drug Enforcement Agency have made securing the southern border one of his top priorities. He says he would accomplish his goal with better-equipped soldiers on the ground; the most advanced, modern military technology available; and yes, even the controversial wall on the Mexican border Republican presidential Donald Trump has touted many times throughout his campaign.

Campaign ads against Gallagher have tied the two Republicans together, but Gallagher says he’s never stepped foot in a Trump rally.

“As for trying to tie me to someone I’ve never met, I think it’s incredibly desperate.”

But will Gallagher vote for Donald Trump? His answer, officially, is yes, because Trump is the Republican candidate and because he says Hillary Clinton has proven to be a dangerous threat to the safety of the American people.

“I am not running for president. I’m running for Congress. Unlike my opponent, I am not running to serve the president in Congress and I’m not running to serve party leadership. I am running to serve the people of the Eighth District and to honor the oath I took to support and defend the Constitution ten years ago when I joined the Marine Corps. And quite frankly, it doesn’t matter which party or leader is in the White House. I’m going to do what’s necessary, what I feel is necessary, and what I think is right in defense of that oath.”

Gallagher calls American jobs one of his highest defense priorities, because unnecessary regulations and taxes are forcing jobs overseas, which he says is a surrender of power to countries like China.

“China cheats. It doesn’t abide by its WTO commitments. It out-competes us across the board and we need to stop that. We need to get stronger across the board and get our economy moving again to grow, because our economic strength is the foundation of our military and our diplomatic power.”

Gallagher says his passion for rebuilding national security, helping the military and improving veterans affairs come from his years studying history. He has a bachelor’s degree from Princeton University, a master’s in security studies from Georgetown University and a Ph.D. in international relations from Georgetown.

Gallagher recently finished a dissertation on the Cold War, which he says shaped “lessons of endurance” he plans to take with him to Washington in an attempt to reform Congress should he be elected.

“Whoever seeks to represent the Eighth Congressional District in Congress, in the next Congress, is going to face a very difficult moment when they will have to go against their party leadership or go against whoever is in the White House. I can almost guarantee that. You need people of principle and commitment to the constitution who are willing to do that.”