This Retired Navy Vice Admiral Wants to Unseat Another Military Officer in the Senate

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Retired Vice Adm. Michael Franken served as commanding officer of the destroyer Winston S. Churchill and served in the Middle East, Asia and Africa. Retired from the Navy and living in Iowa, Franken is hoping to unseat Sen. Joni Ernst, a retired Army lieutenant colonel, who's running for her second six-year Senate term. (Source: Facebook)
Retired Vice Adm. Michael Franken served as commanding officer of the destroyer Winston S. Churchill and served in the Middle East, Asia and Africa. Retired from the Navy and living in Iowa, Franken is hoping to unseat Sen. Joni Ernst, a retired Army lieutenant colonel. (Source: Facebook)

Retired Vice Adm. Michael Franken has been thinking about running for office since before he left the Navy.

Franken did three legislative affairs tours during his 36-year military career. When the flag officer retired in 2017 and went back to his home state of Iowa, he said he felt his experience and perspective was well-suited to cut through some of the inaction he sees in Washington.

Republicans in Congress aren't doing enough to stand up to President Donald Trump, Franken says, and the Democrats aren't doing enough to fight climate change.

Next year, he'll face off against another military officer on the ballot. Franken -- who's running as a Democrat -- is hoping to unseat Republican Sen. Joni Ernst, a retired Army lieutenant colonel, who's running for her second six-year Senate term.

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It's rare to see a former three-star running for Congress. Rep. Jack Bergman, a Michigan Republican and retired Marine lieutenant general, ran for his seat in 2016 and won.

Franken said what led him to run is what he viewed as disparaging remarks about government employees, diplomats and those serving in the intelligence community.

"I was apolitical throughout my uniformed service," he said. "[But] frankly [it] was a call to action to be the voice that confronted that bad message."

Retired Vice Adm. Michael Franken is hoping to unseat Republican Sen. Joni Ernst, a retired Army lieutenant colonel, who's running for her second six-year Senate term. (Source: Facebook)
Retired Vice Adm. Michael Franken is hoping to unseat Republican Sen. Joni Ernst, a retired Army lieutenant colonel, who's running for her second six-year Senate term. (Source: Facebook)

Franken is vowing not to bow to political pressure in Washington. In the video in which he announced his run, he said he's willing to speak truth to power.

He went on to describe how, when President George W. Bush ordered the Pentagon to prepare for the invasion of Iraq, he -- the most junior officer at the table at the time -- alone voted against the war.

Franken said he's seen too many leaders in Washington "unsheathe our sword way too quickly and for the wrong reasons."

"I will do my very best to keep your sons and daughters from fighting an unnecessary conflict," he said.

The retired admiral credits his many years spent operating overseas with giving him the expertise to serve in the Senate during a complex national security environment. He served as commanding officer of the destroyer Winston S. Churchill and served in the Middle East, Asia and Africa.

Back stateside, while serving with the Navy's Office of Legislative Affairs, Franken said he watched as some lawmakers pushed the military to keep outdated programs in place for political reasons. That, he said, can become a burden.

He said he would work with military leaders to get rid of equipment that costs too much to maintain in order to develop new programs.

"[The alternative can be] a maintenance nightmare," Franken said. "We need to move forward, and the unknown and moving forward has a tendency to keep politicians from being advocates of that."

-- Gina Harkins can be reached at gina.harkins@military.com. Follow her on Twitter @ginaaharkins.

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