Patrick Condon, Associated Press, Published October 16 2012
Minn. Senate bid struggling, Bills looks for hopeMINNEAPOLIS — With polls showing little hope for his bid to upset Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar, Republican Kurt Bills found what he thought was a silver lining courtesy of Google.
Somebody told him that if you typed the Democratic incumbent's name, one of the first results the search engine guessed was: “Amy Klobuchar's opponent.”
That, the GOP longshot reasoned, must mean that voters are searching — quite literally — for an alternative, even if they don't know his name.
“I always look to little things,” Bills said Tuesday in an interview with The Associated Press. “Little things get you excited.”
The high school economics teacher and one-term state representative has had to look for reasons to be optimistic. He trails the first-term Democratic senator badly in fundraising, and recent polls have shown him down by nearly 30 points.
With a dose of gallows humor, Bills was incredulous that his name recognition seemed to be getting worse in two successive recent polls from different organizations. The more recent of the two, he said, showed 2 percent lower name recognition than the earlier one did.
Still, Bills insists an upset remains possible because he has a biography and a message of restoring fiscal integrity to government that voters would respond to if they more knew about it.
He points out that not only is he a member of a union, but he grew up in a pro-labor home because his father was a union pipe-fitter. That, and his years teaching economics to high school students, would give him a unique perspective on helping deal with the country's financial mess, Bills said.
Klobuchar and Bills both have talked about reducing the national debt as the top congressional priority. Klobuchar has called for spending reductions, along with letting Bush-era tax cuts expire for upper-income households.
Bills would rather start over entirely, with broad cuts to federal spending based on a reevaluation of every service government provides.
“We always get the duopoly,” Bills said. “Coke or Pepsi, Republican or Democrat. Yes or no. Instead of hey, let's redo the system.”
In the area of taxation, Bills favors a flat tax. But he said if it came to deciding whether to let the upper-income tax cuts lapse, he would vote to extend them.
“If it came down to one or the other, you'd have to leave the policy in place because you sure don't want a tax increase with the economy looking the way it does right now,” Bills said.
While Klobuchar as candidate has pointed to measures where she worked with Republicans, Bills argued that on most major issues she has sided with fellow Democrats. He noted that in her first race six years ago she talked about tackling the federal debt but that since that time it has grown larger.
In financial reports through the end of September, Klobuchar disclosed that her campaign had nearly $5 million in the bank.
The Bills campaign declined to say how much cash on hand it reported Monday to the Federal Election Commission. However, the candidate said he hoped to be able to air a commercial in the closing weeks of the campaign.
To date, Bills has not aired any commercials on broadcast television.
“A public school teacher, a lifelong union member who still teaches his first hour class,” Bills said. “It's just a good story. We have to try to get people to at least say, ‘Oh. There is somebody else.’”
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