Friday, April 04, 2014

Curt Gottshall: Laramie, Wyoming, pilot is making independent Senate run

CHEYENNE -- A Laramie commercial airline pilot wants to become Wyoming's next U.S. senator.

Curt Gottshall said Thursday he plans to run as an independent for the seat currently held by U.S. Sen. Mike Enzi, R-Wyo.

"I've been unhappy with the government and our current representation for some time," he said. "I have a young son now, and I don't want to tell him 20 years from now when we are in a bigger mess that I had a chance to do something but chose not to do so."

Gottshall, 40, is a commercial pilot who captains Boeing 737 planes on international routes.

He said he has been an independent since he first registered to vote at age 18.

“I’ve never found either party could fill all of my desires,” he said. “I guess I’m a bit of an idealist because I refuse that you have to accept the good with the bad in (choosing a party).”

This will be Gottshall’s first run for public office.

He said he has always been interested in politics. But he said last year’s government shutdown was the “straw that broke the camel’s back” in convincing him to run.

Gottshall shares many of the same views as the Republican Party, including the need to significantly shrink the size of the federal government.

He said he would favor cutting “wasteful spending” from federal agencies, such as the Internal Revenue Service, as a way to solve the country’s budgetary problems.

He is also an opponent of the Affordable Care Act and its requirement that most Americans buy health coverage or face a fine.

“I don’t think forcing people to have health insurance is the right thing to do,” he said. “There are many other ways for us to make health care more affordable.”

But he also differs from mainstream conservative thinking on several other fronts.

For example, he said Congress should not cut entitlements, including Social Security and Medicaid, or raise the retirement age.

He also believes that the country should rethink its foreign policy strategy and avoid getting involved in affairs that don’t directly affect the United States.

“I think we have a lot of domestic issues to deal with before we step out and try to save the world,” he said. “We need to save ourselves first.”

But Gottshall said he wants his constituents to ultimately decide how he will vote.

He said he envisions having an online voting tool that would allow Wyomingites to tell him how they feel on a particular issue or bill.

“I’m not someone looking to be re-elected or to become a career politician,” he said. “My desire as a representative of this state is to bring the people’s vote to Washington.”

Gottshall also pledges that he will not accept corporate or special interest campaign contributions.

This will place him in a significant fundraising disadvantage against his rivals, especially Enzi.

The three-term incumbent has raised more than $2 million this election cycle and had $1.8 million available to spend as of Dec. 31, according to the latest Federal Election Commission reports.

The bulk of this fundraising came when Liz Cheney briefly entered the race last year. She bowed out in January after citing health concerns in her family.

Other candidates who have announced runs for the seat are Democrat Charlie Hardy, a retired Catholic priest, and Republican Thomas Bleming, a former solider of fortune.

Joseph Porambo, who is also running as an independent, said he plans to officially announce his campaign next week.

Independent candidates have until Aug. 25 to collect 4,833 signatures of registered Wyoming voters to make it onto the Nov. 4 general election ballot.

Gottshall estimates he and his supporters have already collected nearly 1,000 signatures.

He said he is working with a small staff, which includes political science students from the University of Wyoming, to collect the rest.

He said he also plans to take an extended leave from his job in the coming months to focus on the race.

U.S. senators serve for a term of six years. They are paid an annual salary of $174,000 plus benefits.

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