ST. CLOUD, Minn. - A high school teacher from Rosemount will carry the Republican banner in the race for US Senate next fall in Minnesota.
State Rep. Kurt Bills captured his party's endorsement on only the second ballot Friday at the GOP state convention in St. Cloud.
"I think it's time for some Econ 101 in Washington!" Bills exclaimed in his victory speech.
Bills has taught economics at Rosemount High School for 15 years, but is relatively unknown in the world of politics. He ran for office for the first time in 2010, when he won a seat in the State House.
Now he'll try to mount a statewide campaign against Sen. Amy Klobuchar, a popular Democratic incumbent.
"Every class I've ever taught, every generation I've ever been a part of teaching or coaching is going to know that there are still people standing up for their liberty and their freedom and their future!" he told convention delegates.
His main competitors, former Rep. Dan Severson of Sauk Rapids and Pete Hegseth of Forest Lake, have both said they'll abide by the party's endorsement. That will preclude any serious competition in the August Republican primary, allowing Bills to concentrate on the November general election.
Bills, a dues paying member of the state teacher's union, Education Minnesota, said he's in no position to self-fund his campaign. But he's clearly banking on anti-Obama sentiment in his match-up with Klobuchar.
"I think we're going to be able to raise millions of dollars," Bills told reporters later. "But we're going to run a campaign that's based on a lot of volunteers and a lot of grass roots networking."
The candidate rode to St. Cloud in a school bus painted in his blue and white campaign colors, with "Econ 101" appearing in several prominent places. He said he wants to use it the same way the late Paul Wellstone used his legendary green bus, to travel the state.
"I think it makes sense for a school teacher to travel in a school bus," Bills explained, "But some members of my church have offered to modify the back of it to make it more comfortable for our family."
Severson touted himself as the most experienced candidate in the GOP field. After 22 years in the Navy as a fighter jet pilot, Severson served eight years in the legislature. He ran for Secretary of State in 2010 he finished only four points behind the incumbent Mark Ritchie.
Hegseth served in Iraq, Afghanistan and Cuba in the Army National Guard, and was national chair of the political advocacy group Veterans for Freedom. He asserted that his tactical skills learned in combat zones would serve him well in the tough fights in the US Senate.
But Bills garnered the endorsement House Speaker Kurt Zellers, and Sen. Rand Paul, the son of Texas Congressman and presidential candidate Ron Paul.
The convention delegates were heavily tilted toward Paul because of grassroots organizational work in county and district conventions leading up to the state gathering in St. Cloud.
Ron Paul himself addressed the delegates about an hour after they endorsed Rep. Bills.
"One thing I've said to people after spending so much time on the presidential campaign is that being in DC this is depressing," Paul told the crowd. "I need to go to Minnesota and get cheered up!"
Bills told reporters that Paul is still his candidate of choice in the presidential race, and he won't withdraw that endorsement until Paul leaves the race.
"We'll continue to support him until he backs out of the race, and then we'll support the endorsed candidate, and help them travel around the state as well this coming fall and through the summer."
The Klobuchar campaign released the following statement Friday evening:
"Amy has always put Minnesota first, and has a strong record of standing up for our state and getting things done. That's what she will continue to do."
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