WASHINGTON, DC – The largest progressive group of veterans in the country, representing over 1.5 million veterans, military families, and their supporters is today announcing its final 2022 election endorsements for the first quarter of the year.
VoteVets is endorsing: Admiral (Ret.) Mike Franken (Senate – Iowa), Luke Mixon (Senate – Louisiana), Anthony Brown (Attorney General – Maryland), Nathan Click (NC-13), Chris Deluzio (PA-17), Jeff Jackson (NC-14), Matt Castelli (NY-21), Ashley Ehasz (PA-01) and Francis Conole (NY-22).
“These candidates have a wealth of knowledge and experience to keep our country and communities safe, but also have demonstrated a commitment to others above self, which is what we need more of in our public officials,” said Jon Soltz, Iraq War Veteran and Chairman of VoteVets.
Admiral (Ret.) Mike Franken obtained a Navy scholarship in 1978 and graduated in engineering from the University of Nebraska. He saw sea duty in four navy destroyers, a destroyer squadron, and an aircraft carrier.
He deployed frequently to the world’s hotspots and was the first commanding officer of the USS WINSTON S CHURCHILL. He has significant Pentagon experience beginning with a legislative tour with Senator Edward Kennedy, and then in multiple strategy, policy, and planning positions involving the Indo-Pacific, the Middle East, Europe, and Africa.
Franken was the only voice on a team of military advisers to oppose George W. Bush’s invasion of Iraq. Franken served under President Barack Obama and oversaw numerous successful missions to protect our country including leading U.S. forces in Africa to fight terrorists and pirates.
Luke Mixon graduated from the Naval Academy in 2001, three months prior to 9/11, which would determine the course of his military career.
He earned Navy Wings of Gold in 2004 and became a fighter pilot. He was chosen to fly the F/A-18 Hornet, which he would pilot for the next 17 years, accumulating over 3000 flight hours. He completed four deployments from aircraft carriers in support of missions in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria, where he earned three Air Medals.
Along the way, he completed another lifelong dream when he graduated from the Navy’s prestigious Strike Fighter Weapons School, better known as TOPGUN. And in 2012, he was recognized as the Navy’s F/A-18 Attack Aviator of the Year. His service was completed in the Navy Reserves, where he served as the Commanding Officer of VFA-204, the Navy’s F/A-18 squadron based in New Orleans, LA.
Congressman Brown is a retired Colonel in the United States Army Reserve, with a military record spanning more than a quarter-century as an aviator and a JAG officer. In 2004, he was deployed to Iraq, where he earned a Bronze Star. Anthony has served faithfully in the Maryland House of Delegates, as Lieutenant Governor, and in the United States Congress. Anthony has been a leading voice on equity and justice both in Maryland and on Capitol Hill and is running for Attorney General to dismantle barriers whether in health care, housing, the environment, or the workforce and to give every Marylander a fair shot to get ahead.
Click is a former U.S. Air Force officer with nine years of service and a veteran of Operations New Dawn and Enduring Freedom.
Click is also a member of the Veterans of Foreign Wars, a lifelong member of the National Eagle Scout Association and a member of the Boy Scouts of America, Occoneechee Council Executive Board and executive Vice President of Membership.
Chris was born and raised in the Pittsburgh area where his parents instilled in him the importance of service and hard work. After graduating from the US Naval Academy, Deluzio was commissioned as an active-duty naval officer, later deploying at sea and then to Iraq with an Army Civil Affairs unit. After his tour of duty in Iraq, Chris went on to earn his law degree from Georgetown and later worked at the Brennan Center for Justice on voting rights and election security issues.
Senator Jackson became the second-youngest senator in the state Senate in 2014. He was new to political office, but not new to public service, having enlisted after the attacks of September 11th, trained at Ft. Bragg, and served in Afghanistan. He continues to serve today as a Captain in the Army National Guard. He is currently in his 19th year of military service.
After a year-long deployment in Afghanistan, Senator Jackson attended law school at UNC-Chapel Hill with help from the G.I. bill, before serving as the assistant district attorney in Gaston County. In Gaston County, he tried more than one hundred cases. In the process, he saw firsthand how a failure to properly invest in and prioritize public education, economic development, mental health care, and criminal justice reform was harming people and families across North Carolina.
After the 9/11 attacks, Matt focused his life’s work on protecting our country through counterterrorism and national security. He became a CIA Officer, where he led intelligence collection and counterterrorism operations; serving in Afghanistan and Iraq. Matt’s team hunted down some of the world’s most dangerous terrorists, working within the same unit that found Osama Bin Laden.
Matt’s success at the CIA led to the opportunity to serve as Director for Counterterrorism at President Obama’s National Security Council. In that role, he developed strategy, policy, and operations to keep America safe from terrorism and extremism. His work degraded Al Qaeda and ISIS, and strengthened security cooperation with our allies. Matt stayed in this role for the first year of the Trump White House before returning to the CIA to work at the intersection of public-private partnerships to bring cutting-edge technology to help protect our nation.
In 2020, as the world faced a devastating pandemic, Matt took a leadership position with a veteran-founded New York based technology company dedicated to eliminating barriers to health care for veterans, rural communities, and minorities.
A U.S. Army veteran and Apache helicopter pilot, Ashley grew up in Southeastern Pennsylvania, and at the age of 17, with a waiver in hand, she joined the Army, seeing that as her best option to afford her college education. If elected, Ashley would be the first woman serving in Congress to have graduated from the United States Military Academy.
Upon graduating from West Point, Ashley was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant within the U.S. Army Aviation branch, where she trained to become an AH-64D Apache Longbow helicopter pilot, graduating as the only woman in her Apache class. She then served as a platoon leader and later as battalion logistics officer and pilot-in-command, deploying to Kuwait under Operation Spartan Shield, and Camp Taji, Iraq, with Operation Inherent Resolve. Ashley also proudly served as a company commander for two years.
Following her command time, Ashley used her G.I. Bill to pursue her graduate degree at the University of Oxford. She then came home to work with local governments, helping them navigate their responses to the COVID-19 pandemic.
After graduating from Westhill High School in Onondaga County, Francis received a nomination from Congressman James Walsh and was later accepted into the Naval Academy Class of 2001. Francis graduated from the Naval Academy three months before 9/11. Shortly after, Francis reported to the U.S.S. WASP where, at 23 years old, he led a division of almost 40 sailors and was tasked with maintaining the propulsion of a 40,000-ton ship. Francis would later serve on the USS Carney, an Arleigh Burke-Class Destroyer, where he navigated the ship as an Officer of the Deck and trained the crew to respond to damage.
Following his tours at sea, Francis served in the Office of Naval Intelligence where he led a branch of analysts to produce critical intelligence, and volunteered in 2008 to serve on President Obama’s Armed Forces Inaugural Committee.
In 2010, Francis was re-activated and deployed with Army Special Forces into a combat zone in Iraq where he worked alongside Iraqi Forces and planned the safe withdrawal of U.S. Special Forces from Iraq. After his return from Iraq, Francis utilized the G.I. Bill to receive an MBA from the University of Maryland, and earned a MA in National Security Studies from the Naval War College. Francis continued his service at the Pentagon as a policy advisor to Defense Secretary Ash Carter and Jim Mattis. He advised on U.S. Defense Policy for Jordan, Lebanon, and Israel drafting strategy that protected U.S. interests and strengthened our partnerships in the Middle-East, which resulted in being awarded the Defense Meritorious Achievement Medal.