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Military dad joins race for the 25th

Dante Acosta, financial adviser whose son died while fighting in Afghanistan, will challenge

Posted: March 7, 2012 9:20 p.m.
Updated: March 7, 2012 9:20 p.m.

Dante Acosta

 

After two trips to Washington in search of answers from the U.S. military about the death of his son, Dante Acosta is running for Congress.

On Wednesday, the father of Army Spc. Rudy A. Acosta, who was shot and killed a year ago in Afghanistan by a rogue private security firm recruit, announced he is running for the 25th Congressional seat.

Dante Acosta said he’s already paid the filing fees and is wrapping up the remaining required paperwork to make it official.

Acosta was spurred into political action, he said, after receiving news his son had been killed by an Afghan national recruited by a private security firm.

He wanted to know how it was allowed to happen and he wanted to know what could be done to stop the practice of private firms hiring Afghan nationals to protect American troops.

He wrote to Congressman Howard “Buck” McKeon, R-Santa Clarita, who invited him to Congress twice in the last year for special hearings of the House Armed Services Committee.

The experience, he said, left him frustrated.

“I’m frustrated by the inaction I witnessed,” he said. “This current bill notwithstanding.”

Disheartened
Last week, McKeon, who serves as chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, introduced a bill to Congress seeking to stop private security firms from being contracted to protect U.S. troops in Afghanistan.

Asked about the timing of the bill, Acosta said: “A week before the filing deadline for someone running against him in election year? I’ll let the public draw their own conclusions.

“The way it took six months to get some kind of response from our congressman’s office was disheartening,” he said. “Especially when he actually chairs the committee that has responsibility and oversight power.


“It woke me up to the fact that our district — such a prominent district — is so underserved.” he said.

“I look at other issues not just Rudy’s issue. Although I think that it’s vital to protecting our soldiers — that issue is the thin edge of the wedge, prompting me on. People say ‘Well, are you a one-trick pony? Are you a one-issue candidate?’”
In answering them, he points to Candice Lightner who started Mothers Against Drunk Driving as an example of someone who started out with one issue and ended up making important changes, Acosta said.

McKeon’s response
“I am disappointed that after a year of working together through congressional hearings, intensive investigation and the introduction of legislation to ensure that what happened to Rudy Acosta doesn’t happen to another soldier, Mr. Acosta has chosen to launch a political campaign against me,” McKeon said Wednesday in a written response.


“Our country is facing tremendous challenges that require real leadership. I look forward to a vigorous dialogue about what we need to do to get our country working again and keep America the strongest power in the world,” the statement said.

Aware of a problem
Acosta, who grew up with humble beginnings working to support his mother’s bridal shop in Granada Hills, says he knows the value of money.

The married father of two surviving children — a daughter Alexandra, 16, and son Doran, 11 — Acosta worked at a car dealership until he was in a position be its general manager, he said.


He and his wife, Carolyn, volunteer at the Santa Clarita Baptist Church on Luther Drive.

And, for the past 20 years, as senior financial adviser for UnionBanc Investment Services, he’s helped local small businesses grow, he said.


“I went through a process — kind of an awakening — where I said to myself, ‘What is going on in this district?’ I started peeking under the tent.


“And, when I did I said ‘Whoa, what’s going on?’ We’re not being represented here. Our interests aren’t being protected or heard.’”

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