Mike Flynn Tries to Jump From Pundit to Politician in Illinois

The Breitbart editor is running an underdog campaign for Aaron Schock's former seat in the House of Representatives.

Mike Flynn has published about a million and a half words on politics and policy. Now, he's trying to put them into practice.

Last month, Flynn, an editor for the conservative Breitbart News, announced his bid for the special election to replace former Rep. Aaron Schock in Illinois. The former columnist and founding editor of the Big Government blog decided to make his first run for political office after the scandal-tarred Schock's resignation, arguing that his role in the media prepared him for office.

"My position is long-known, established, and out there, and I think that's something unique that voters get a chance to see," Flynn said. "They're not all going to agree with me on the issues all the time, but at least they'll know where I stand and the reasons why I stand there."

Flynn is trying to make a jump from pundit to politician with the help of some others in conservative media. RedState's Erick Erickson has endorsed him; so has the popular Ace of Spades blog. But he faces an uphill battle for Schock's old seat. State Sen. Darin LaHood is the favorite in the July 7 primary, with nearly a million dollars raised for the campaign compared to about $70,000 for Flynn. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is helping LaHood, too, with supportive TV ads. And LaHood started out with an unusually well-known name for a state senator: His father, Ray LaHood, served in Congress before becoming President Obama's first Transportation secretary.

Flynn isn't new to the campaign world, though he's never experienced it as a candidate. He has worked on political campaigns in the past. "I've seen all parts of politics except the candidate's perspective, and that was a really fascinating and rewarding experience just in the first few weeks of the campaign," he said.

"I think the people like me or the founder of Daily Kos who are thinking about running are just the first acknowledgement that media is an active part of our political process," Flynn continued.

Flynn is referring to a counterpart on the other side of the ideological political media—and, potentially, a future colleague. Liberal blogger Markos Moulitsas, founder of the Daily Kos, has publicly expressed interest in running for Congress, if Rep. Barbara Lee's Bay Area seat were to become open. But unlike Flynn, Moulitsas believes he wouldn't start with the upper hand, especially if he ran against a political veteran.

"Because when all's said and done, I may write about politics, but I'm not a politician," Moulitsas said. "And I certainly don't mean that as a pejorative. I mean it in the professional sense. Politicians have skills that are necessary to convince people to vote for them, and I don't possess those skills."

Congress actually has a few former journalists in its ranks, though most sought a lower office before coming to Washington. In the 114th Congress, there are seven House members who formerly worked as reporters, according to the Congressional Research Service.

Before running for office, Democratic Rep. Cheri Bustos (whose district neighbors the one where Flynn is running) worked as a journalist for almost two decades, spending most of her career as a reporter and editor for the Quad-City Times, a daily paper that covers cities in both Illinois and Iowa. She covered various political beats including the East Moline City Council, where she later went on to serve before winning her seat in Congress in 2012.

"As a reporter, I've been exposed to so many different things, and I think going in and serving people who I've seen in their best days and their worst days is a great background to have," Bustos said. She said she sometimes tells her House colleagues to hold more media events or send press releases because "still thinks in terms of stories."

Bustos took an intermediate stop in local government before she made it to Congress, while Flynn is trying to jump straight to Washington. But he doesn't lack for assurance that he has something to bring to the Capitol.

"Politicians are sometimes very far removed from the policy," Flynn said. "They are very acquainted with the politics of campaigning and not necessarily well-versed in policy themselves. In this race, I have far more knowledge of policies than my opponent."