By Leon Worden/SCVNEWS.com
Santa Clarita Gold Star father Dante Acosta has pulled nomination papers to challenge Howard “Buck” McKeon for Congress in the June primary election.
According to LAVote.net, Acosta, a Republican, pulled his papers Tuesday and has until Friday to file them.
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McKeon, R-Santa Clarita, was first elected in 1992. Other potential challengers include Democrats Lee Rogers of Simi Valley and Laura Molina of Lake Hughes, and Republican Kathy Wright, daughter of former state Sen. Cathie Wright, also of Simi Valley. Only McKeon and Molina have filed the necessary paperwork to date, according to LAVote.net.
This year marks the beginning of the “top two” open primary system, under which the top two vote-getters for Congress (and Senate and Assembly), regardless of party affiliation, advance to a run-off in the November general election.
Acosta, a Canyon Country resident, is the father of slain Army Spc. Rudy Acosta. The 19-year-old soldier was killed on a U.S. Army base in Afghanistan on March 19, 2011, when an Afghan enemy combatant masquerading as a security guard opened fire on Acosta and his fellow soldiers. Cpl. Donald Mickler Jr. of Ohio also died in the attack.
After the facts of the incident came to light, the elder Acosta urged McKeon – chairman of the House Armed Services Committee – to conduct a congressional inquiry into the practice of hiring Afghan nationals as private contractors to provide force protection for U.S. troops.
McKeon called on Pentagon officials to discuss Afghan national security forces in September, but the hearing fell short of Acosta’s expectations.
Acosta continued to press McKeon for answers and took his case to SCVTV and other local media organizations, after which the Army revealed it had completed its investigation of the attack in April 2011.
McKeon expressed outrage over the stonewalling he’d gotten at the September hearing, where Army officials didn’t share the information contained in the April investigation report. McKeon called Pentagon officials to task and held another committee hearing at Acosta’s request in late January.
Acosta told SCVNews.com he was upset he wasn’t allowed to testify at the January hearing. A House Armed Services Committee spokesman said it was because Acosta wasn’t qualified to testify “on the changes the military will undertake to prevent future deaths.”
Acosta said his goal was to stop the practice of hiring Afghan nationals to guard American soldiers.
On March 1, McKeon introduced legislation that would “prohibit the use of private security contractors and members of the Afghan Public Protection Force to provide security for members of the Armed Forces, military installations and facilities in Afghanistan.”