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Bills rolls out House GOP support at Capitol

Jake Grovum//April 18, 2012

Bills rolls out House GOP support at Capitol

Jake Grovum//April 18, 2012

Rep. Kurt Bills of Rosemount, (Staff photo: Peter Bartz-Gallagher)
First-term GOP Rep. Kurt Bills announced a host of legislative backers for his U.S. Senate run on Wednesday, touting the endorsement of 34 members of the House GOP caucus in a show of support that he said would go a long way in his bid for the Republican endorsement to take on DFL U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar.

“This team, made up of a broad spectrum of Republican support,” Bills said, “is ready to help statewide to ensure a successful election this November.”

A number of the House Republicans backing Bills were in attendance for the Wednesday morning news conference, and Bills said his campaign has just begun efforts to rally support in the Senate. He said his campaign has gained the backing of two lawmakers in the upper chamber already.

The announcement also brought a quick rebuke from the campaign of Pete Hegseth, who’s seeking the GOP endorsement as well, a sign that the intra-party campaign for the Republican nomination could escalate quickly as endorsing conventions and delegate selection continue around the state.

Both Bills and GOP Rep. Sarah Anderson, one of the lawmakers endorsing bills Wednesday, said the wide range of support from the House GOP — both politically and geographically — will go a long way when it comes to securing the GOP nomination.

“It’s important to branch out as quickly as you can,” Bills said. “It’s all about delegates right now.”

Among those backing Bills are Reps. Jim Abeler, Greg Davids, Keith Downey, Pat Garofalo, Mary Liz Holberg, Joyce Peppin, Mark Buesgens and Steve Drazkowski.

Bills is thought to also be a likely beneficiary of Ron Paul’s fervent support among the grassroots in the Republican Party, especially when it comes to the activist-centered endorsing conventions and delegate counts. Bills was early to endorse Paul in the GOP presidential nomination contest and the Texas congressman has pledged to personally support his bid both politically and financially.

Some have said the association with Paul, though, could prove a liability if he’s seen as outside of the mainstream or too much of a insurgent force against other GOP candidates looking to challenge the popular centrist Klobuchar. That was the tone struck by the Hegseth campaign following Bills’ announcement.

“The bigger story is that more than half of Representative BIlls’ Republican House colleagues haven’t endorsed him,” campaign spokesperson Kyler Nerison said in a statement. “It could be that as the handpicked candidate, they are worried about Representative Bills’ ties to the Ron Paul establishment and their extreme positions.”

“We need to endorse a candidate who can raise the money and deliver the message that will beat Amy Klobuchar in November,” he continued. “That person is not Kurt Bills.”

For now, Bills downplayed any of those concerns and said the Paul supporters are just another facet of the GOP that will help him in the drive for the nomination.

“It’s very good that that’s a group that’s very well organized,” Bills said. “We will have a very grassroots campaign.”

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