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Kurt Bills has the cut-from-stone looks, booming voice, and background story that make him a candidate straight out of central casting. An average student in high school, Bills worked for a few years in road construction before going to college to become a police officer. A growing interest in education led him to change his trajectory. Since 1996 he has worked as a teacher at Rosemount High School in Rosemount, Minnesota, where he teaches history and economics. His political career took off in 2008 when he was elected to the city council, then he ran successfully for state representative in 2010. Now he’s making the big jump to national politics with a challenge to incumbent Democratic Sen. Amy Klobuchar.
Bills says he jumped into politics because of his students. “If my kids ever asked me, ‘Mr. Bills what we are supposed to do about all this?’ at least I could say ‘Well here’s what I did. I tried to get involved and you can do this, too. Doesn’t matter what party you’re in, just get involved.’ ”
Bills touts the curriculum for his economics courses, saying “I am an educator, not an indoctrinator. I don’t teach them what I believe, I teach them all the schools of economic thought and challenge them on all of them.” The works of Austrian economist Carl Menger sparked his interest in the field.
He is not really comfortable with the libertarian label, preferring to call himself a “libertarian-leaning constitutional conservative,” but most of his positions align with mainstream libertarian ideas. He is hostile to the drug war, favors a non-interventionist foreign policy, and embraces Austrian economics.
Unfortunately for Bills, Minnesota has shown itself to be a Democratic stronghold in recent campaign cycles, despite being the home to former Republican Gov. Tim Pawlenty and national conservative icon Congresswoman Michele Bachmann. Klobuchar was elected with almost two-thirds of the vote in 2006, and all polls indicate that she is poised to cruise to reelection again this fall. The wild card in this race is the Ron Paul movement in Minnesota, which is backing Bills vigorously. If the organizational chops that Paul’s machine displayed during the Republican caucuses mean anything, this race could be closer than the “solid Democratic” that Cook currently predicts.
CORRECTION: The original version of this article said that Flake initially voted for the Troubled Assets Relief Program. He did not.