Last year Mike Rounds, former governor of South Dakota, said that he had no plans to run for U.S. Senate — but a year watching the dysfunction in the federal government, plus a little prodding from his friends, made him change his mind, Rounds said.
Rounds said he believes the country is moving in the wrong direction, so he felt compelled to try and help fix what he feels is a broken system in Washington, D.C.
"The only way we're going to fix these things is a few more of us get involved for the right reasons," Rounds said to a group of supporters.
Rounds is the only announced candidate for the seat in the U.S. Senate that will be vacated by Tim Johnson in 2014 and was the keynote speaker at the 2013 Lincoln Day Dinner at the Ramada Inn and Convention Center Saturday night. The guest speaker at the dinner was John Hoeven, a Republican Senator from North Dakota who expressed his support for Rounds' senate run.
"I've been calling him every day for two years saying 'you gotta run for senate,' ” Hoeven said to the crowd. "You have a great state, but our country needs to get back on track."
Hoeven, whose father was born in Aberdeen, said to the crowd that the federal government could learn from South Dakota, which has balanced its budget every year, about how to manage its finances.
During an interview before his speech, Rounds said he is strongly opposed to the way the federal government is operating today because of its excessive deficit spending and consistent interference in affairs that should be left to states or private citizens.
"I think Washington needs to step back and realize that the federal government can't fix every problem," Rounds said.
He cited the Affordable Health Care Act as a prime example of the federal government interfering in private businesses and spending money it does not have.
"D.C. should not be in the middle of this health care debacle called Obamacare," Rounds said. "We need to allow businesses to do business," he said.
The Environmental Protection Agency's interference in the Hyperion oil refinery project is another example of how the federal government has been meddling in states' affairs, Rounds said.
"The EPA did everything it could to try and destroy that project just because it doesn't approve of using carbon-based fuel," he said. "Never mind that it would be a better, cleaner and more modernized facility than most that are already operating and that it would save a great deal of money in transportation costs."
Rounds said if he gets elected, he wants to focus on getting the budget under control, giving small businesses a better chance to succeed and working with others in the Senate to find solutions to the problems the federal government should be focused on, such as America's inability to secure its borders and prevent illegal immigration.
"We need to create a legal immigration system that works," he said.
Although he would like to spend more time with his grandchildren, Rounds said he believes he has a responsibility to try and make sure that America will get back to the basic principles of smart compromises and smaller government that made America the great nation it is today.
"I want to hand over a country to our kids that is better in 2026 than it is today, which is still pretty good," Rounds said to the assembled crowd during his speech at the dinner. "I want to help make sure that, in 2026, when America celebrates it's 250th anniversary, our kids will live in a country they can be proud of."