Sen. Rob Ortt on Saturday, in announcing his run for the NY-27 congressional district, hung his star -- his Bronze Star -- on his military service and what he said are his conservative credentials as a "battle-tested warrior."
It's a phrase he is using on his campaign signs, he used in his speech and in his remarks to the media after his announcement.
Ortt came to Batavia, which he said is the heart of the district, and made his announcement in front of City Hall, where just a month ago, Medal of Honor winner David Bellavia received the Key to the City.
"This really is the heart of the district," Ortt said. "We wanted to make a point, we wanted to be here in Genesee County, in Batavia, because if you think about Genesee County, Orleans County, Livingston, Wyoming even parts of Ontario, it's rural New York. It's rural America.
"Those are the values that we talk about all the time that we're losing in places like Albany and Washington, D.C. These are values that our party talks about defending all the time. And I think it's important that you are actually where those folks live. This is the heart of the district in my opinion."
Ortt talked at length about his decision to serve in the military after 9-1-1 and take part in the War on Terror and what his service meant to him.
"I was lucky to return home to Meghan and my family but I wear a constant reminder on my wrist of four of my brothers in arms who were not so lucky," Ortt said. "That is what motivates me and inspires me to this day. These men and countless others died for an idea that we refer to as America. My commitment to that idea did not end when I took off my uniform."
Ortt said he is fully committed to defending President Donald Trump, that he wants to go to Washington to support the president's agenda. He said he supports tighter border security, accused Democrats of being for "open borders," and said he wants to build a wall along the Southern border.
"I deployed to the Southern border as part of Operation Jumpstart," Ortt said. "I know what our Border Patrol is up against. We need to build the wall. We need to increase funding for border security of all kinds. And we need to close the loopholes that are allowing people to cut the line and waltz in here consequence-free."
Ortt said Democrats in Washington are pushing a radical agenda and he wants to go there and fight it.
"Albany, and by extension New York State, is a stark warning to the rest of the country," Ortt said. "We already know here what the Democratic Socialist agenda is: Higher taxes. Open borders. Driver's licenses for illegal immigrants. Unionization of our farms. Abortion on demand, more rights for criminals, and more gun control for our law-abiding gun owners."
Ortt said he has been named through multiple years the most conservative member of the Senate and that he is experienced in standing up to Gov. Andrew Cuomo.
"I will do the same to the extreme radical Speaker of the House," Ortt said. "You all know who I'm talking about. She runs the Democratic policy agenda and she has never seen a camera she doesn't like. And she's a New Yorker.
"Her name is Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. She has a couple of deputies, too: Nancy Pelosi and her America-hating squad members Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib. I look forward to meeting all of them."
Earlier in his speech, Ortt accused some Democrats of hating America and said, "If you don't love this country, you're free to leave. Our borders work both ways."
After these statements and statements about how well he believes the country is doing under Trump, Ortt said, "So if you hadn't guessed it, I support President Trump. And I'm not afraid to talk about his agenda and all the good that I believe he's doing for this country."
He concluded his speech with, "I am Robert Ortt. I'm a conservative warrior. I'm a battle-tested patriot and I will never back down from the fight. I'm not running for Congress to have a seat at the table. I'm running for Congress to flip the table over."
At no time during his speech did he mention the incumbent congressman, Chris Collins, who is facing a House ethics investigation and a federal trial on insider trading charges and has yet to announce whether he will seek reelection. Asked about Collins after his speech, Ortt said he is committed to the race and will run in a primary against Collins should Collins decide to try and retain his seat.
"This race is wide open and I think it's so important that we have a strong conservative veteran voice, a battle-tested leader, in this race," Ortt said. "I think it's important for the people of this district and I think it's important for our country for our president."
Also left out of Ortt's comments were the names Chris Jacobs, Beth Parlato, and David Bellavia. Neither Jacobs nor Parlato have yet to make a public appearance in Batavia, but both are running in the primary election on June 2020. And while there is a "Draft David Bellavia" movement among a group of Republicans in the district, Bellavia has remained neutral on political questions since receiving the Medal of Honor. He is currently serving the Army in publicity and recruiting capacity and is prohibited from making statements about his political plans. It's unclear when his status will change and what his intentions might be toward the seat.
The video contains Ortt's full remarks, including the discussion with reporters after the event.
After Ortt's announcement, Jacobs released the following statement:
“I want to welcome my friend Rob Ortt to the campaign for New York’s 27th district. As a conservative who has created jobs, I’m running for Congress because our community needs a fighter for small businesses who can help President Trump enact better trade deals and stop the illegal immigration crisis. I intend to run an issues-based campaign focused on my record protecting taxpayers, cutting fees and defending the 2nd amendment and I welcome Rob to that conversation.”