MARSHALL - Kevin Terrell, an Independence Party candidate for U.S. senator, visited Marshall Friday afternoon to talk with local residents about issues.
Terrell and his wife, Thuy Nguyen, also spoke with a handful of professors at Southwest Minnesota State University before visiting the traveling Vietnam Memorial Wall at Independence Park.
Terrell, a political science major with an MBA from the University of Minnesota's Carlson school of Management, grew up in Lincoln, Neb. and lived in Minneapolis for a year as a child. He formerly sat on the Minneapolis Neighborhood Board, representing Lynnhurst (roughly 6,000 people) for more than three years. He also worked to organize a group advocating against proposed flight path changes over southwest Minneapolis.
"Most recently I spent a year-and-a-half fighting the federal government, fighting the Federal Aviation Administration, and everywhere I went when we talked about this airport issue... people would raise their hands and say 'It's the federal government, we can't do anything about it,'" Terrell said. "And I looked at people and said 'You know what? It's your government, if you don't like it, change it.'"
The changes included a flight path that went right through the middle of southwest Minneapolis and hosting 135 flights a day.
"We fought that tooth and nail," Terrell said. "And at the end of it, they (the FAA) said 'We're not going to try to implement this here.' At the end of the day we won. We are the only city in the United States that stopped the FAA from doing what they wanted to do."
"Government in America is of the people, by the people, for the people," Terrell said. "And it seems like there is an awful lot of government happening to the people right now. I don't like it, so we're going to change it."
Terrell said that he doesn't necessarily want to have less government, but he said he wants a "better government." He wants to show accountability for government spending.
"It's not a question of spending more or less money," Terrell said, "it's a question of spending money better, to actually get results."
With his business experience, Terrell believes that he can bring a marketing mind to government and some real-world economic experience.
"Understanding what the market needs, how to listen to that and improve operations into a more effective output," Terrell said. "There is none of that in government today."
"I think I have the most hands-on experience in the most sectors of the economy than anyone in the race," Terrell added. "(U.S. Sen Al) Franken doesn't have any experience in the real economy, (Mike) McFadden is an investment banker. I've been in healthcare, manufacturing housing corporate finance. I understand those businesses on a nitty-gritty level, translating customer needs into real products for real people, in a way that these guys have not done. I think we could use a little common sense, understanding how to get things done in the real world."
"I wouldn't be running if I didn't think there was an opportunity," Terrell said. "I'm the marketing strategy guy, I look at the market, and I say you have a weak incumbent, you have a wave election and you have a weak major-party challenger."
When asked if he leaned more left or right, Terrell said that he sticks pretty firmly with the Independence Party.
"I think the Independence Party's mantra of fiscally conservative/socially tolerate is basically where I am," Terrell said. "The GOP mouths those words (fiscally conservative) but doesn't actually live by them. Bush increased spending more than any of the last six presidents. I'm tired of hearing the words from over there and I want to see some action. And I am an action sort of guy."
Terrell also noted that as an independent candidate, he tied to party lines and can focus more on the citizens of Minnesota.
"Franken votes 99 percent of the time with the party. I'm pretty sure that's not reflective of the people of Minnesota," Terrell said. "First, I can pay attention to the people of Minnesota and vote accordingly. Second, I don't have a national party telling me what to think. So part of the problem with both candidates on the opposing sides is that they have national parties that are going to tell them what to think, how to vote, whether that's good for Minnesota or not."
"I don't have that problem," Terrell said. "I can vote with what the best interests of the state are."
He also expects to have more leverage as an Independence Party member.
"When I get to Washington, and it's 49-49, which is very likely this year, you basically have Angus King and me in the middle as the 51st votes," Terrell said. He is open to caucusing with either party, as long as they meet his standards for change in government.
"Whichever party decides that they are going to be the most transparent, the most accountable and listen to the voice of the citizen the most, that's where I'll start," Terrell said. "Whoever does the most for the people of America and drives Washington back to the people... I want to use the leverage of being the 51st vote to drive some of that."
Terrell said that his top priorities for when he gets to Washington is to improve transparency, accountability, listen to citizens and to "look at opportunities to improve any situation. You look for things that are easy to do that can have a high impact. What are the things I can do to drive transparency and accountability to the people?"
"You take a look at the Senate today, only three senators publish their schedule, only one sets aside time on a daily basis to talk with citizens of their state, and a couple of senators are trying to do quarterly town halls," Terrell said.