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Billings Gazette - "Newcomer Running for Baucus' Seat"

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Billings Gazette - "Newcomer Running for Baucus' Seat"

Saying he wants to fence out illegal immigrants, secure Social Security, properly fund the military and end deficit spending, Billings Republican Kirk Bushman formally announced Wednesday that he will be a candidate for the U.S. Senate.

The 41-year-old engineer said one of the first people he consulted about a Senate run was the late Karl Ohs. Ohs, a former Montana lieutenant governor and legislator who died in November, asked him if he had the fire in his belly for politics, Bushman said in remarks to a crowd of supporters at the Knights of Columbus Hall in Billings.

"Since that time, my wife and I have traveled across the state," he said. "The more people I talked to, the more I felt the fire."

Bushman, a political newcomer, plans to challenge Democrat Max Baucus, one the most powerful leaders in the Senate, who has raised nearly $9 million for his re-election campaign.

First Bushman must get past the Republican primary where he will face the other declared candidate, former Montana House Majority Leader Michael Lange.

Bushman was introduced by Ohs' son, Eric, who said his father had agreed before his death to be Bushman's campaign adviser on health issues. "This is an announcement I've been waiting for for a couple of months," Eric Ohs said. "I'm glad it's here."

He said that in talking to Bushman, "it was clear he was very passionate about the issues he talked about, particularly Social Security and government spending."

Bushman told the group that he understood the importance of Social Security firsthand, because it was what allowed his mother, Hazel, to make ends meet when her husband died, leaving her with a large family to support.

He said his mother took a job at a department store, where at 74 she still works and pays into government entitlement programs.

"There is no way I would take benefits away from my mother and others like her," he said.

In previous interviews, Bushman has said he supports some combination of traditional Social Security and personal accounts to ensure long-term viability of the program.

He also talked about trillions of dollars in national debt and the legacy it will leave for future generations.

"Deficit spending needs to stop," he said.

Bushman also said funding for the military should be enough so that the armed forces can be prepared to ensure national security. But he also said military spending must be carefully scrutinized.

Failure to deal with illegal immigration is the reason the public is so dissatisfied with Congress, Bushman said.

He said he was disappointed that funding had been curtailed for fencing along the border with Mexico. The fence is key to preventing illegal immigration, Bushman said.

Once that problem is resolved, the problem of illegal immigrants already here could be addressed, he said. Deterring employers from hiring illegal immigrants should be part of the solution, he said.

Asked about Baucus' daunting campaign war chest, Bushman acknowledged that money was a big question.

"Most of his money is coming from out of state," he said. "It really worries me about his perception of the real world."

Bushman said his perspective of the real world came from working with people from many walks of life all over the world and in the U.S. as part of his engineering career.

Bushman is a graduate of Central High and Montana State University. With him during the announcement were his wife, Jill; their newborn son, Cooper; and his mother.

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