Following his , Ardsley resident Joe Rooney is preparing to battle for a seat in the 13th Congressional District in the upcoming November elections.
Rooney is a 23-year veteran of the United States Marine Corps and Marine Corps Reserves, where he served as a combat pilot flying both the F-4S Phantom and the F-18 Hornet. He and his wife, Beth, have five children; two of those children currently serve in the military … and they serve as the inspiration for a congressional campaign.
"I have a daughter in the Navy and my son is a junior in the Air Force Academy, and basically I looked around and decided that if my kids were volunteering to serve and defend the country, that I would do the same at home," Rooney said, adding that his displeasure with the performance of the economy and reckless government spending also contributed to his decision to run.
In addition to his extensive military background, Rooney also studied mechanical engineering at Cornell University, earning a Bachelor of Science degree. He's previously worked on several political campaigns, and while living in Maryland he unsuccessfully ran for the state legislature.
Though he was defeated in his first venture into politics, Rooney said the process rewarded him with an abundance of experience, from which he intends to draw, in his current congressional bid.
Views on the military, Islam and Koran burning
With a rich family history of military service, it's no surprise that one of Rooney's primary platforms is national defense and defense spending. Rooney said he strongly opposes the recent plans for combat troop reductions across the army and Marine Corps, and he adds that decreases in defense funding will compromise the combat readiness of American forces at home and abroad.
"I want a strong, modern military," Rooney said. "My daughter is getting ready to deploy to the Persian Gulf in June, and at the same time we're pulling troops out of Iraq and Afghanistan. It doesn't make any sense."
Rooney pulls no punches on his views of Islam, with his website proclaiming that "there is no such thing as a moderate Islamist". While the statement may appear to be inflammatory, Rooney cautions that it's not meant to be an indictment of Muslims or the Koran, rather it serves to distinguish between people who hold religious beliefs and extremists who use those beliefs to oppress and attack others.
"We lived in Malaysia and Indonesia for two years, and we never had a single problem with the Muslim people," Rooney said, adding that he was proud to serve alongside Muslim service members. "An Islamist is not a Muslim. An Islamist is the enemy. The words 'moderate Islamist' make about as much sense as saying it's a dry, rainy day."
Rooney adds that President Obama's recent decision to offer a formal apology to Afghanistan in the wake of another Koran burning incident was unnecessary and leaves the country looking weak and vulnerable.
"You can make mistakes, you can make amends, but you can't look weak," Rooney said. "It's a sign of weakness when you go around groveling and apologizing. It drives me nuts as a marine, as a father of children who are currently serving, and as an American."
Instead of focusing on the act of Koran burning, Rooney said people should look at the ensuing protests, which left two U.S. Army officers dead.
"There are two American families who are receiving a casualty call, and we're over there with President Obama apologizing to [Afghanistan President] Hamid Karzai," Rooney said. "A mistake was made in burning Korans in Afghanistan, but how many Korans do you think are being burned in Syria right now as the Syrian military continues to shell the city of Homs?
"How many Korans were burned in Egypt during their uprising?" Rooney continued. "If burning the Koran were such an atrocity, why don't they protest their own militaries and their own officials?"
The economy, entitlements and traditional American values
Reducing the size and scope of the federal government and reining in spending are two of the key issues of Rooney's campaign. He adds that overregulation has stifled the economic recovery, and said he would rather see efforts be made to create an environment where small businesses can thrive.
"I'm increasingly bothered by the $15 trillion worth of debt that we have, as well as the $1.5 trillion annual deficits," Rooney said. "Spending is out of control."
On the issue of unemployment, Montgomery County has fared well locally with a below-average unemployment rate, but Rooney said that action is still required so long as the city of Philadelphia is above the national average.
"We have almost 11 percent unemployment in Philadelphia, and even though Montgomery County is only around 6 percent, what happens in Philadelphia will have a great affect on the surrounding suburbs," Rooney said.
Rooney adds that he would like to see a return to what he calls "traditional American values." Ideally, he said he wants people to earn their way through life by working hard and living within their means, with as little outside influence as possible.
Additionally, Rooney advocates for Medicare and Social Security reform, as medical costs continue to skyrocket and Social Security rapidly approaches insolvency.
"For the last eight years, Allyson Schwartz has known that the Social Security Trust Fund doesn't have any money in it, but she has done nothing to address the issue," Rooney said. "She'll demagogue against Paul Ryan and she'll demagogue against the Republicans, but while we know that every plan isn't a good plan, at least the plan is a starting point to fix the issue."
Campaign finance and Allyson Schwartz
Rooney is seeking to become the first Republican representative in the 13th Congressional District since Jon D. Fox held the office in 2000. In order to be successful in his campaign, he'll need to overcome congresswoman Allyson Schwartz's fundraising efforts.
His plan is to discuss where Schwartz's contributions are coming from, as well as the amount of time she spends on her fundraising efforts.
"She's a money raising machine, but those people aren't giving her money based on how effectively she represents the people of the 13th Congressional District," Rooney said. "Allyson Schwartz is bought and paid for by large corporate interests. That is who she represents, and she is completely out of touch with the needs of the local community."
While Rooney acknowledges that he may be unable to compete with Schwartz in the fundraising department, he said he is confident that the voters will be more focused on the issues than signage, television ads and bumper stickers.
"Come election time, everyone will be familiar with my stance on the issues and my ability to represent them in congress," Rooney said. "We have a great country, and I'm going to do my best to continue to serve it."