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Tuesday was the first filing day for any candidate wishing to run for one of Arkansas’ United States senate seats, and Jake Bequette was among the first to turn in his paperwork and pay the fees.
That’s notable but not huge news in the United States because here, citizens can aspire to office even if they’re not career politicians.
But Bequette doing this is significant because it once again points his life, previously filled with public attention and public service, to even greater public attention and more service to his country.
That’s how it is when you played football for the Arkansas Razorbacks …
… And got selected by the New England Patriots in the third round of the 2012 draft.
… And then joined the army after an NFL career and became a Ranger-qualified infantry officer in the 101st Airborne Division fighting in Iraq.
That’s how it is when, at age 33, Bequette is trying to unseat incumbent John Boozman (R) from a senate seat he’s held since 2011.
“I’m running because Washington is failing America and it’s a two-part problem in my eyes,” Bequette said minutes after filing his paperwork to run in the May 24 Republican primary. “The first part of the problem is most people on the Republican side understand it’s the Democrat Party that’s gone hard to the left. They’re full of radical leftists and socialists. Nancy Pelosi, Joe Biden, Chuck Schumer, the squad, we’re seeing the consequences every single day of their failed policies.
“But the second part of the problem that’s becoming more evident is the do-nothing establishment RINOs in the Republican Party — invisible career politicians who simply set up in Washington, D.C. for multiple decades, cashing a check and simply refusing to fight on the issues that really matter to conservatives in Arkansas and conservatives all across the country.
“I deployed to Iraq with the 101st Airborne, and when I came home, I saw what was happening on our streets with the looting and the violence in 2020, the suppression of our economy, the destruction of so many small businesses and the weak leadership from so many invisible RINOs in D.C., and I knew it was time for a new leadership. I knew it was time for a change in this seat in the U.S. Senate in Arkansas.”
Bequette led a light infantry rifle platoon in Iraq and is now taking aim at elements in both parties. That doesn’t make him an independent — he is running as a Republican.
But it definitely makes him a problem for a lot of career politicians.
“Arkansas is a deep red state, and if you want to call yourself a leader, a U.S. Senator in the Republican Party in Arkansas in 2022, you better be someone who’s leading from the front, someone who’s rallying others to our cause, who’s moving the needle on the key issues that matter,” Bequette said. “And I’m going to do that in D.C. in the U.S Senate.
“Boozman, he’s part of the establishment. He’s been totally invisible. As I travel the state of Arkansas , people tell me, ‘Hey, I’ve been waiting for years for someone to challenge Senator Boozman because no one knows where he stands.’ And it’s not good enough to sit up there and vote right some of the time. You’ve got to be a conservative warrior.
“You’ve got to be a leader and you’ve got to take the fight to the radical left because they’ve gained so much ground across so many of our institutions, including sports, including the military, of course, higher education, and the corporate media. It’s a disaster. And so until we have a strong corps of conservative warriors, America first leaders, patriots, whatever you want to call it, until we have that new cadre, new corps, nothing is going to change.”
Bequette talks about leadership and fighting for constituents and taking the battle to the opposition a lot. It’s almost as if the guy was immersed in competition and leadership during his athletic career and then again during his military career.
“I learned how to lead from some of the best football players and coaches of all time with the Arkansas Razorbacks and New England Patriots,” Bequette said. “And then with some of the finest soldiers and officers in the infantry in the 101st Airborne. And, really, it’s about setting the tone and creating a culture where everyone is energized, motivated. They’re willing to sacrifice and work hard for a cause that matters.”
Bequette, by the way, has identified a cause.
“Tragically, what we’ve seen in our country is we’ve seen politicians, particularly in the Republican Party, career politicians who are not leaders. …They’re not interested in fighting for American culture, the conservative values and principles that made this country great, and fight the battle of our time, which is defining what this country is going forward.
“We’re in a battle. We’re in a fight. It’s a battle over the future of our country, and I see too many politicians, and I’m including Senator Boozman, who simply don’t understand the nature of that fight.
“I learned in football and I learned in the military, you cannot win a fight you don’t even know that you’re in. And too many Republican politicians don’t even understand the nature of the fight our country is in.”
Here’s a crazy fact: Congress traditionally has abysmal approval ratings. The latest Gallup polling shows the current Congress has an 18 percent approval rating, down 10 percent from the previous poll.
And yet these unpopular politicians get re-elected at a rate of approximately 94 percent. So how can an outsider, a professional football player but not a professional officeholder, overcome that?
“Well, thankfully, I think many Republican voters across the country, many conservatives across the country are waking up to the reality that it’s not just the Democrats who are the problem,” Bequette said. “It’s politicians within our own party. And I think there’s been a resurgence of focus on primaries.
“We’ve seen that become more prevalent the last couple of election cycles, but this election cycle in particular it’s going to be very bad for incumbents all across the board. People are ready for change.”
Bequette is not a unique case of an athlete hearing the call to service.
Pat Tillman left the NFL to join the military. Former NFL safety Burgess Owens, who played 10 seasons with the New York Jets and Oakland Raiders, won Utah’s 4th congressional seat in 2020. Former running back Herschel Walker is running for a U.S. Senate seat in Georgia.
And while it might not be true for others, it was sports and his time in the NFL that convinced Bequette to serve his country.
“Bill Belichick always had a lot of military veterans hanging around the team and speaking to us …” Bequette said. “And after spending some time with those guys just listening to the motivation within, I made the decision that whenever my football career was over, I was going to serve in the military.
“I had a good career, played four years. I was a part of some amazing teams. But really I was laser focused on the next step, which was serving our country … I see this campaign as a continuation of my military service, as a continuation of my oath to support and defend the Constitution.
“Because we need bold leaders, the type of bold leaders that I see in sports and in the military but I don’t see in Washington.”
Follow on Twitter: @ArmandoSalguero