U.S. Senate candidate Mike Durant (left) smiles for a photo beside Dr. Tony Catanzaro while touring Gadsden Eye Associates during Durant’s visit to Gadsden. Katie Bohannon/Messenger.
By Katie Bohannon, News Editor
United States Senate Republican candidate, veteran and business owner Mike Durant recently voyaged to the City of Champions, hoping to connect with locals and share his message for Alabamians as he strives to represent the state.
Durant toured Gadsden in February, speaking with business owners and elected officials, listening to the perspectives of residents and gaining a better understanding of the issues that impact Etowah County. He visited the Etowah County Courthouse and Sheriff’s Office, meeting with Dr. Tony Catanzaro and the staff at Gadsden Eye Associates and dining at local staple Pruett’s Bar-B-Q. Durant described the Gadsden and Etowah community as “his kind of people,” having traveled to the region before and enjoyed his experiences.
“That’s why I live in Alabama,” said Durant, who feels the people of Gadsden and Etowah County encompass the passionate spirit of the state. “It’s very patriotic, with an appreciation for veterans and citizens who care about the country. That’s the kind of people you want to interact with and meet.”
Durant called himself a “blue collar kid,” who grew up in a New Hampshire paper mill town and had $70 in his pocket when he enlisted in the United States Army in 1979. During combat Operation Gothic Serpent, Durant – who flew Blackhawk helicopter “Super Six Four” – and his crew were struck by an RPG and crashed in Mogadishu, Somalia on October 3, 1993. Durant and his crew, comprised of Ray Frank, Bill Cleveland and Tommy Field, were all injured and fought the attacks of a violent mob, ultimately leaving Durant as the sole survivor. Master Sergeant Gary Gordon and Sergeant 1st Class Randall Shughart – both awarded posthumously the Medal of Honor – volunteered to defend Durant and his crew on the ground following the crash, sacrificing their lives in the process. Durant, who was captured and held prisoner for 11 days afterward, attributes his survival to Gordon and Shughart, who embodied the philosophy he treasures today: “no man left behind.”
Durant retired from the army with 22 years of active-duty service, authoring In the Company of Heroes and The Night Stalkers and being portrayed in the 2001 film Black Hawk Down. He moved to Alabama with his family over two decades ago.
“I understand the real impact of decisions,” said Durant, discussing why he chose to run for Senate. “I understand how the things we support and don’t support affect businesses, families and individuals. I feel like I’m much more qualified than anyone else running. We need people in Washington who have that experience, who haven’t been there for 40 years. We need somebody who isn’t going to go in and do things the same old way…you need somebody with fresh ideas, motivated to do the right thing for the people of Alabama. It isn’t about special interest groups or establishing a career for an eternity. It’s about what the founding fathers originally envisioned – representing their state for the best interest of their state, then going home. That’s what I plan to do.”
With a father who served in World War II and a son who enlisted in the Alabama Air National Guard, Catanzaro connected with Durant’s illustrious commitment to his country. When assessing the candidates for U.S. Senate, he believed Durant to harbor no agenda other than advocating for the people of Alabama.
“He’s a non-politician,” said Catanzaro. “He’s actually worked in the real world, and he cares about the citizens of the great state of Alabama. I’ve been trying to decide who I wanted to support in this election, because it’s hugely important – it matters who you vote for. We need people like Mike in office that are solid citizens, that have businesses in the state of Alabama that know what the citizens of Alabama want and desire. That’s who we need…servants to go to Washington.”
“Mike Durant served our great nation, making many sacrifices during his 22 years of military service,” said Tommy Colvin, who joined Durant on the local meet-and-greet and serves as the Etowah County Campaign Coordinator for Durant. “He is a supporter of pro-life, pro-second amendment and security of our borders. He will stand against the most liberal administration that our country has ever known. Mike Durant is the most qualified candidate running for the U.S. Senate for the state of Alabama.”
Durant considers integrity as the chief characteristic all successful senators should possess, which mirrors his approach to operating his Huntsville-based engineering and services company, Pinnacle Solutions. Durant emphasized the importance of crafting a mission statement that demonstrates values and responsibilities clearly for its employees and fulfilling that mission each day. He shared that in both business and politics, with employees and voters alike, trust is essential – a steadfast and reliable belief that is earned and should be safeguarded. When politicians waver in their promises, verbalizing one stance today and then adopting the opposite tomorrow for the sake of pleasing the polls, Durant deems their vacillation untrustworthy and a grave mistake. He noted that often, candidates get caught in a whirlwind of appeasement, rather than acting on what is best for those they represent, losing sight of what matters most: doing what is right.
“Doing the right thing is easy when everything is going well,” said Durant. “Where it gets tested is when things aren’t going well. When you’ve had real world experiences, and you know you’re facing that decision, and you maintain the high ground and do the right thing every time…that’s something I’m very passionate about. I’ve experienced in the end it’s going to work out for you. It’s when you start deviating from that commitment to integrity that things start to really go wrong. I think that’s the most important attribute in any kind of leadership position…someone you can trust.”
Durant left the people of Etowah County with a message regarding his campaign and his intention for the future.
“I’m just proud to have the opportunity to run,” said Durant, reflecting on his roots, from his dedicated working-class lineage to his humble origins in the military. “I’m a real person. There was no silver spoon in my mouth. I’m proud of what I’ve accomplished, but I also feel like I’m just another citizen. To have the opportunity to run for U.S. Senate is incredible and amazing. [America] is the greatest country that’s ever existed. I would be honored if people would vote for me, and I promise I’ll do the right thing.”