PORTAGE — Frank Mrvan received two major endorsements Saturday.
U.S. Rep. Pete Visclosky and United Steelworkers of America District 7 both threw their support to Mrvan’s congressional bid.
“Congressman Visclosky has set the bar very high for you,” USW District 7 President Mike Millsap told Mrvan.
Mrvan, currently North Township trustee, promised to work for union members, fair trade, Buy America provisions for steel and access to affordable health care.
“Every candidate wanted the endorsement of the United Steelworkers,” Mrvan said.
The endorsement process included a questionnaire and a two-hour interview with the USW local union presidents for each candidate, Mrvan said.
Millsap said the Steelworkers union members remember their friends.
“We have profound strength in electing the next member of Congress,” Millsap said. “Frank, I hope you and the Steelworkers will be friends for a very long time.”
Visclosky waited until Saturday to announce his endorsement in the crowded field of candidates in the U.S. House 1st District primary. Visclosky is retiring from the House of Representatives after a 36-year career, making him one of the longest-serving members of Congress in Indiana history.
“The Steelworkers independently made a decision, and independently I made the same decision,” Visclosky said.
Mrvan thanked Visclosky for his endorsement.
“He’s not passing away; he’s just levitating himself to be able to advise and be able to help,” Mrvan said.
Visclosky has worked as hard as the Steelworkers do every day, Mrvan said, and promised to do the same.
“A campaign has a lot of casualties, and a lot of it is time,” Mrvan said.
Visclosky praised Mrvan’s dedication to building coalitions and listening to others’ concerns and ideas.
“I know that Frank Mrvan will fight with each breath and every fiber of his being to further collaborate and implement his vision for the next transformational initiatives that will bring the people of Northwest Indiana together in order to grow our regional economy, create more good-paying jobs, and improve our quality of place,” Visclosky said in a prepared statement.
Mrvan told the assembled Steelworkers that his grandfather worked in the blast furnace when he migrated from Czechoslovakia.
“Why do people who work in the blast furnace go to church every Sunday? It’s because they’ve already seen how hot it is in hell,” Mrvan told the Steelworkers.
In North Township, Mrvan is responsible for 170,000 residents, he said.
He provided public transportation “when the city of Hammond decided not to make that a priority,” he said in a reference to Hammond Mayor Tom McDermott Jr., who is among Mrvan’s opponents in the Democratic primary.
Moments after Visclosky’s announcement, McDermott tweeted, “While I respect Congressman Pete & his service to #CD1, his endorsement today of one of my opponents underscores the need for a new vision in #NWI.”
State Rep. Mara Candelaria Reardon, D-Munster, who also is running for Visclosky's seat, also responded to the endorsement. "I'll stop at nothing to fight for working people," she said. "I've proved this over 12 years in the Indiana Statehouse where I have bled for the unions and people's right to join one. The people pick their leaders and they will do so in this race."
Another candidate, Jim Harper, responded to the endorsement with a statement: "I entered this race because I believe that Northwest Indiana desperately needs voices from outside the political establishment to tackle our challenges. I am not a part of the political establishment, and I never expected to get the support of the political establishment. I have deep respect for Congressman Visclosky, but I remain convinced that Washington needs new perspectives that will fight for bold, progressive action.”
“I think having a judicial temperament is important, especially now,” Visclosky said.
Mrvan praised Visclosky’s emphasis on constituent services and promised to uphold that tradition.
When Steelworkers Local 7-1 went on strike against BP in Whiting five years ago, Mrvan made sure the strikers had access to health care when their insurance ended 60 days after the strike began, he said. He later found financial help so they wouldn’t lose their homes, he said.
“I’m always going to fight for your right to organize,” Mrvan said.
“Congressman Visclosky has fought, talked, breathed and did everything he could to fight for Buy American for domestic steel,” Mrvan said, and promised he would continue that fight.
“I will be a vocal member of our steel caucus,” he said. “At every turn I will fight for the American worker, because the American worker is worth fighting for.”
Millsap praised Visclosky’s work on behalf of the Steelworkers and the domestic steel industry.
“I simply am not running for Congress this year. I have not died,” Visclosky said.
This story will be updated.