Iraq and Afghanistan war veteran Pete Hegseth of Stillwater formally announced his candidacy today, March 1, for the U.S. Senate. Just weeks back from deployment with the Minnesota National Guard in Afghanistan, the 31-year-old captain joins former lawmaker and retired U.S. Navy pilot Dan “Doc” Severson in the scramble for the Republican Party U.S. Senate endorsement. The two are the only Republican candidates in the field. Confronting Republicans is Democratic U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar, a popular senator with the financial ability to run a robust reelection campaign. “Nothing worth doing is easy,” said Hegseth, a former Forest Lake resident and graduate of Forest Lake High School, of running for the Senate. “And nothing in life has perfect timing,” he said. Hegseth, who will abide by the party endorsement, he said, plans to contrast his beliefs against Klobuchar’s record in the Senate — he depicts the senator as a big government, big spending devotee. “Lots,” he quipped when asked about how much campaign funding he’d need to be competitive in a race against Klobuchar. He knows he’s young for a U.S. Senator, Hegseth said. But younger and older people can both have good ideas, he added. “And I think some 51-year-olds don’t have good ideas,” he said, referring to Klobuchar. Hegseth is married to Samantha and the couple have a 20-month-old son, Gunner. A graduate of Princeton University, Hegseth served as a combat platoon leader with the 101st Airborne in Iraq and as a civil military operations officer. In his Afghanistan deployment, Hegseth served as an instructor at a counterinsurgency training center in Kabul. He trained American and NATO troops as well as Afghan security forces, according to the candidate. Commenting on the progress of the war, Hegseth, besides scoffing at the idea of setting troop withdrawal deadlines in advance, explained the recent burning of the Muslim holy book the Koran at a NATO base — an action that has inflamed Afghans against the United States and has resulted in American deaths — as inadvertent. Detainees, Hegseth said, had been passing written messages to each other via shared copies of the Koran. Copies of the Koran were inadvertently burned, he explained. “The action — I don’t believe it merited an apology,” Hegseth said. But Hegseth also spoke of not wanting to second-guess military leaders on the ground. Hegseth, recipient of two bronze stars for his military service, is executive director of Vets for Freedom, an organization 95,000-members strong. He has gained a national profile in the role, appearing in the media and on cable television networks such as MSNBC. “We’ve got to win our damn war,” he said of American involvement in Afghanistan during an MSNBC appearance. Asked about the federal bailout of the automotive industry — which some Democrats style a success, pointing to the rebounding industry — Hegseth indicated he would not have supported it. “I don’t think we can pick winners and losers,” he said. Hegseth spoke of the role of creative destruction in the marketplace — he rejected the idea some industries are too big to fail. Hegseth has worked as an embedded journalist in Afghanistan for the conservative publication National Review Online. Although never having served in elective office before, he views his military and Vets for Freedom service as showing leadership. In recent comments to the media, Hegseth mentioned that he is a divorcee. He mentioned that, he explained, out of fairness to his former wife. Hegseth will be traveling the state in upcoming days, meeting with voters and Republican delegates. He had little to say about his rival for the endorsement, Severson. “Best of luck to him,” said Hegseth. Hegseth in his Senate campaign is using staffers who worked on Republican 8th Congressional District Congressman Chip Cravaack’s upstart 2010 campaign.