By Howard Lestrud, ECM Publishers Political Editor
Running for the U.S. Senate this year against incumbent Sen. Amy Klobuchar was a “winning experience,” says Minnesota Rep. Kurt Bills, who shies away from saying he will run for political office again some day.
Bills, the endorsed state Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate, says he is excited to once again be a full-time social studies teacher in the Rosemount school district. Bills has taught classes in microeconomics, macroeconomics and American government & politics.
The 42-year-old teacher is now a former state politician, having cleaned out his House office and working on a transition to his successor, Anna Wills, a Republican taking the reins of the new House District, 57B. He says he has handed off some of his files to her, specifically some pertaining to education issues. He also plans to send out an email blast to his 37B constituents.
Looking back at the 2012 Senate election, Bills said the results were not as close as he had wished. He was soundly defeated by Klobuchar, picking up 31 percent of the vote. Bills says, “I feel I was a person who was a citizen stepping up to serve and keeping the greater good in mind. I really hope I helped people learn the difference between economic virtue and political virtue.”
Bills says he was “a guy” talking about the fiscal cliff the entire election. The day after the election to now, it has been the leading headline, he points out.
Never leaving the classroom during his tenure as state representative and as a candidate for Senate, Bills feels proud of informing his students as to how they can be involved in the political process, rather than complaining, being cynical or being stoic. He taught first-hour economics while serving in the House and while seeking a U.S. Senate seat.
“I’m just going to enjoy being a full-time teacher again and watch my four kids grow up,” he said. “I also plan to focus on educating students, getting them involved in understanding the political process regardless of political party affiliation; this whole process will help me become a better social studies teacher.”
Bills emphasizes that it was his work with students that led him to a political life. He explains that it was because of all of the questions his students had, “looking into their eyes and hearing them talk about the deficits we face, and wondering why we were not offering solutions.” Bills said he ran for local, state and federal office with his students and his own children in mind.
Bills was often called the darkhorse candidate in the U.S. Senate campaign. He says the Star Tribune called the race in February. Bills called Klobuchar a powerful, politically connected person with millions of dollars in funding behind her. “It’s all about money” in campaigning, Bills believes.
He says many of his students ask about the political process. He responds to them, “Unless you are political elite or financial elite, you will face a tough time. That’s why political parties are so powerful, as long as you don’t have money you don’t have a chance.” He calls the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002 (McCain-Feingold Act) an absolute failure.
Talking further about his lack of financing, Bills said if he had it to do over, he would invest more time seeking funding for TV and advertising. “I don’t know if it would have yielded any different results but it would get your name out there,” Bills said. In order to defeat Klobuchar in six years, Bills says better funding of a Republican candidate has to be accomplished in getting the message to the media.
The endorsement process also concerns Bills who says Gov. Dayton totally disregarded the Democrat-endorsement process and some Republicans may do the same in the future, he believes.
Bills admits to possibly not being “as polished” as other candidates but said he believed he had a greater understanding of fiscal and monetary policy. “I was discussing many of the issues, many issues surrounding the fiscal cliff and budget process. Economic theory is only as good as its ability to predict.” Bills and Klobuchar met four times in a forum or debate setting.
Energy was not lacking by Bills who says he always puts out 110 percent, whether on the campaign trail, in the classroom, working as a state representative or coaching on the wrestling mat. Bills is a former high school coach and says he may get involved in that area once again.
Bills has no regrets concerning how hard he worked on his political campaigns. He credits his blue-collar background. His father, is a retired pipe fitter. “I grew up in a very blue-collar home and nobody can take your work ethic or education away. I educated myself constantly about issues, worked in road construction, educated myself and worked as hard as I could.”
Whether his political impact made Bills a glowing light, a guiding light, or a shooting star, he hopes the people he has touched “have an understanding about the posterity of our children’s future instead of saving our posteriors.”