Warwick-born Michael McKenna may live in Florida now, but he has his sights set on Washington, D.C.
The Navy veteran has entered the race for Florida’s Ninth U.S. House of Representatives District in 2014.
“I love service,” said McKenna in a phone interview. “I love the idea of being able to make decisions and talk to people.”
McKenna, who is running as a Democrat, says his interest in politics started in the United States Navy.
He graduated from Bishop Hendricken High School in 1998 and joined the Navy in 1999 at age 19. He worked up the ranks and ended up working as a recruiter in Airport Plaza in Warwick in 2003.
Eventually, he ended up as Chief Petty Officer for the recruiting district in Jacksonville, Fla., recruiting men to join the SEALs.
“Then we started getting into budget talks,” recalls McKenna. The budget showed him a side of government that shaped his thinking and sparked his desire to become involved. As a recruiter, he learned the Navy planned to release 3,000 sailors from their contracts in 2012 because they could not afford them. He remembers telling a veteran sailor of 15 years his service was no longer needed.
McKenna said the sailors attempted to reach President Obama through the We The People petition website, but they could not get the signatures necessary. Then, around June 2012, McKenna said about 300 sailors attempted to sue but nothing ever came of it.
“They did not have the national attention they needed,” said McKenna. “Some received small severance packages and they were sent home.”
After releasing all of those “middleman” sailors, however, McKenna said the recruitment goal was set at 6,000 to make up for the loss of manpower.
“When you bring in the younger generation, you can pay less,” said McKenna.
That just did not sit right with McKenna.
“When you start to run the service like a business, I decided it was time to leave,” said McKenna.
Now he wants to put things back on the right track.
“[Many politicians] don’t use their position for the better of the people,” said McKenna. “I will be a different choice.”
McKenna says since he is not a career person or businessman, he has a different take on things.
“I spent pretty much all of my life in the Navy,” said McKenna.
McKenna’s campaign website features a long list of agenda items, including making sure no one receives cuts in Social Security and removing the gender gap in pay so women are not held back in the workplace.
And, of course, McKenna supports the military.
“I want to make sure the military gets their pay and veterans are taken care of,” said McKenna, adding that the support military personnel get is not satisfactory when compared to the risks they take.
Not only does McKenna believe he will be a different choice politically, but he will also be running his campaign in a different way, with no fundraising goal.
“We are going old school and trying to take big money out of campaigns,” said McKenna. He said his campaign treasury has $500.
His team of five people works out of a home office, going door-to-door collecting signatures of support. McKenna says with the economy in the state it is, he cannot ask people to donate the amount of money other campaigns operate on.
“We are going to operate on whatever we get and that’s good enough for me,” said McKenna. “So far, it’s working. People like that approach.”
McKenna lives in the Orlando-area, specifically in Davenport, which is just south of Kissimmee and Walt Disney World. While he says he loves living in Florida, he still misses Warwick and visits the area often.
“I miss the seasons,” admits McKenna.
A true Warwick native who grew up on Narragansett Parkway, McKenna loves to celebrate Gaspee Days.
“I try to get up there for the parade every year,” said McKenna. This year, however, he was unable to attend.
Although he misses aspects of the Rhode Island lifestyle, McKenna does see the advantages of living in the Sunshine State.
“I love the weather,” said McKenna.
He also says the atmosphere in Florida is different from the fast-paced style of New England.
“You relax a lot more,” he said. “It’s nice to be able to slow down. There are only two places I would live: Florida and Rhode Island.”
Of course, if all goes to plan next year, McKenna will be spending a lot of time in Washington, D.C. And despite the fact that he will be representing constituents in Florida, he says he will always make time for those from Warwick.
“The decisions that I make will affect the whole country. The residents of Warwick can send their concerns to me. If anyone wants to reach out, have them send it to me. We take every suggestion into consideration,” said McKenna.
To find out more about McKenna’s political views and to contact him, go to his website, www.mckennaforcongress.com.