ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — A U.S. Army veteran and political novice joined the race Wednesday to be the Republican challenger for Democratic U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar’s seat.
While acknowledging an uphill battle against the popular incumbent, Pete Hegseth told The Associated Press that he thinks she has been too politically cautious at a time when the country faces major challenges.
Hegseth, 31, has never run for political office, and said he knew he was getting into the race late after returning to the state only weeks ago from a deployment in Afghanistan.
“We’re building this plane while we fly it, and trying to do something in eight months that normally takes two years,” Hegseth said. But he said he believed he could appeal to voters with a message of fiscal conservatism, as well as pointing out Klobuchar’s support for the Obama administration’s measures such as universal health care and the financial bailout. He also described himself as socially conservative, but said he intends to campaign on how he’d target the national debt and reduce the deficit.
Klobuchar’s campaign manager did not immediately return a call seeking a response.
Hegseth joins three other Republicans in the hunt to run against Klobuchar: St. Bonifacius City Councilman Joe Arwood, St. Paul businessman Anthony Hernandez and former state representative Dan Severson. Of the four, Hegseth is the only one who hasn’t explicitly promised to leave the race if he does not win a party endorsement in May, which could extend the GOP contest until the Aug. 12 primary.
“We intend to win the endorsement,” Hegseth said, but would not say what he’d do if another candidate gets it.
Given Klobuchar’s massive advantages in name recognition and fundraising, a drawn-out contest would likely have negative effects for the eventual Republican candidate.
Hegseth, who is married and has a son and another child on the way, was born in Minneapolis and raised in Forest Lake. He graduated from Princeton University with a degree in political science, and was a member of ROTC.
Hegseth said he deployed to Guantanamo Bay just days after graduation, and was also a platoon leader in Iraq and later a civil military operations leader with the 101st Airborne. More recently, Hegseth was a counterinsurgency instructor with the Minnesota U.S. Army National Guard in Kabul, Afghanistan.
Between his deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan, Hegseth served as executive director of Vets for Freedom, a national group that advocated for President George W. Bush’s Iraq surge. Hegseth said he was proud of that work but didn’t expect it to be a focus of his campaign.
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