Rick Weiland isn't looking for Washington, D.C.'s approval.
He wants to be the choice of the people.
"I'm focused on getting out and talking to the voters," Weiland said Wednesday at Mugs the Coffee House in Aberdeen. "I realize I need broad support to win. I'm not that focused on Washington."
Weiland, a Democrat, is making his way across South Dakota in a grassroots campaign effort to reach every community in the state. He's making a bid for the Democratic nomination for the U.S. Senate seat held by Tim Johnson, who is not planning to seek re-election in 2014.
"I'm on fire," he said at the town hall meeting. Aberdeen was his last stop of the day, but in addition to Mugs, he also planned a visit to the Brown County Fair. "I'm in and I'm running. Despite conventional wisdom. I'm committed to this."
Weiland's town hall campaign kicked off July 14. The crux of his campaign is the need for Washington to get its priorities straight.
"I'm running because Washington, D.C., is broken," he said. "Congress has an approval rating of less than 10 percent. What I think is at the heart of this is Congress is no longer looking out for the average person."
Weiland questioned the need for a farm bill where 75 percent of the money goes to 4 percent of the producers. He also said more needs to be done when it comes to health care options.
"We have a health care program that made a lot of improvements," he said. "But it's a half a loaf that didn't get the job done."
Weiland said it's good that children are able to stay on their parent's health plans longer and that there's more coverage for pre-existing conditions but, he said, there also should be an option that allows people to buy into the government's Medicare program.
"I'm really pushing hard. We need to improve what we've got to let the public buy in," he said.
Weiland also said serious changes are needed when it comes to the tax code because it allows big companies to shift profits overseas.
"It's all about the big money and shutting down those loopholes," he said.
If elected, Weiland said his first effort will be to introduce a constitutional amendment that gives Congress the ability to limit the money raised and spent when it comes to federal elections.
Asked about his position on immigration, Weiland said there's definitely a need to secure the borders and there are policies on the books that should be enforced, but at the same time there needs to be a path to citizenship for the 11 million immigrants in the United States illegally.
At least one person in the room disagreed saying immigrants who are here illegally shouldn't be here at all, but others said immigrants play a key role in some jobs.
In regards to questions about the national debt, Weiland said half the $17 trillion debt is the result of two unfunded wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the rest is from the tax cuts proposed by former President George W. Bush.
"I mean business," he said. "The first thing I'm going to work on is getting big money out of government."
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