Bill Kiefer believes America's election system needs more 60-day, low-budget, grassroots campaigns, and he wants to be the first to prove that such campaigns can elect candidates.
Kiefer is running as a write-in candidate for North Dakota's U.S. Senate seat against Republican Rick Berg and Democrat Heidi Heitkamp. He announced his candidacy Wednesday at news conferences across the state, including one in Minot.
"I am not a career politician," he said. "I think that's a strength. I feel I am a citizen who is trying to become a statesman and not a career politician."
Bill Kiefer brought his “Bring back common sense” campaign theme to Minot at a news conference Wednesday. Kiefer is running as an independent for a North Dakota U.S. Senate seat.
Kiefer said he chose the write-in route because of the simplicity in filing and ability to remain independent of party. He plans to hold public meetings in every county before the election to hear from voters and get the word out about his campaign.
He credits Minot native and college basketball coach Dale Brown for his decision to run. He said Brown knew about his passion and told him if he didn't run, he would regret it for the rest of his life.
"So I am not really doing something that I want to do. It's something that I feel obligated to do," he said.
Kiefer, 62, is a native of Cayuga, a small town south of Valley City. He taught and coached football for five years in Mohall after graduating with degrees in economics and history from North Dakota State University in 1972. He later taught and coached in Wahpeton before working in the airline industry for five years as a ticket agent in Fargo and as a manager in an airline finance division in Minneapolis. He opened Republican Airlines' sales office in Washington, D.C.
He spent 20 years with Piper Jaffray and later worked as an independent in the finance industry until retiring last year. He currently has homes in Fargo and New Salem.
Kiefer said he has not been politically active but has donated to politicians on both sides of the aisle over the years. His campaign will take no donations over $200.
"Nobody is going to own me. If I get elected, I am going to be doing the people's wishes, not some corporation, not some union, not some wealthy individual, not some Super PAC or political party," he said. "I am going to serve one term and one term only. ... Towards the end of my term, I would like an independent poll to be conducted in the state, and if I don't get at least 50 percent approval that I've done a good job, I will resign before the end of my term, thus relinquishing the pension and fringe benefits that go along with being a one-term congress person. I don't think anybody else has the courage to do that."
He also would challenge others in Congress to pay part of all of their health insurance like other Americans. He supports reforming Social Security and Medicare, along with addressing the high cost of health care created when people use emergency rooms as primary care. He supports the Frontier Amendment that improved federal reimbursements for small-state hospitals but opposes insurance mandates on individuals in the health-care reform law.
On national issues, he supports a balanced budget as the first step in addressing the deficit. He supports initiatives in the report of the debt reduction commission chaired in 2010 by Erskine Bowles and Alan Simpson. The plan reduced debt by $4 trillion over a decade by cutting defense and discretionary spending, curbing federal entitlement costs and reforming the tax code.
Kiefer said he supports a safety net for agriculture producers. He believes the state has the financial means to address issues in the oil patch without federal help, but the U.S. government has a role in natural disaster response in situations such as the flood in Minot.
He said his independent vote could provide leverage in dealing with partisan bickering that has kept Congress from being effective.
"All the partisan bickering revolves around all the darn elections that are too long," he said. "If elected, I am going to propose legislation that will reduce all federal campaigns to two months. If anybody says it can't be done, I will say I just did it. ... If I win, we will have proof that it can be done."