FAIRMONT - Aaron Miller is no stranger to tough fights.
The command sergeant major in the Army Reserves has served in Iraq and Afghanistan and is a recipient of the bronze star. But whether that background will help in his race for Congress remains to be seen.
Miller is facing an uphill battle against incumbent Rep. Tim Walz, D-Minn., who has represented southern Minnesota since 2007. A string of Republican opponents - Gil Gutknecht, Brian Davis, Randy Demmer and Al Quist - have failed in their efforts to capture the seat.
Fresh off winning the Republican endorsement, Miller visited Fairmont on Thursday as part of a campaign swing. He believes he has something new to offer that those other candidates did not.
He cited his private sector experience, namely 15 years in the health care industry as an account manager. And he pointed to his status as a veteran, something that Walz has touted to his own advantage over the years.
"A veteran has never run against Walz," Miller noted.
That, he believes, should help blunt Walz's presumed area of expertise and create a situation in which the campaign is about other issues. For Miller, this means Obamacare, a bloated federal government and the weak state of the American economy.
Miller says he believes in health care reform, just not the heavy-handed approach of the Affordable Care Act, which has had a troubled rollout and created doubts about its long-term viability. Miller suggests private sector reforms instead, including health savings accounts, portability of insurance from job to job and creating more competition among insurers across state lines.
"We as Republicans need to quit saying no and come up with our own solutions," he said of health care.
As for Walz, Miller says his opponent has supported Obamacare repeatedly, and that it is a problem, not a solution.
Looking at the government overall, Miller sees tremendous waste, which he wants to cut in every federal department. Government is not living within its means and it must, he argues.
Reducing federal deficits would be among the advantages of a more robust economy, Miller notes. He sees government interference - Obamacare, EPA rules on farming, new banking rules that stifle small business - as major problems. He says freeing up the private sector, creating jobs and opportunities, also would help reduce dependency on government.
"Folks want the opportunity to get out there and work," he said.
Miller said he was motivated to get into the race because he and his wife, Jennifer, have 10- and 14-year-old daughters, and he worries about their futures given the path the nation is on.
He noted that incumbents in Congress have a re-election rate of more than 90 percent, but says he has put together a good grassroots organization across southern Minnesota, and that his campaign coffers are starting to fill up.
"I think we have received more donations in the last week and a half than we did for the entire endorsement process," he said.
Miller, of Byron, promised that if he is elected, he will serve a couple of terms before making his way back into the private sector.