Hegseth weighing U.S. Senate bid

Back from Army duty in Afghanistan, he will firm up political plans soon

Capt. Pete Hegseth leads a class on counterinsurgency at Camp Julien in Kabul, Afghanistan. (Photo submitted)

Cliff Buchan
News Editor

Pete Hegseth has never run for political office, but that could change this year.

Hegseth, 30, a Forest Lake High School graduate who is a decorated Army veteran and a former leader of a national military organization, said this week he is considering a run against U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar this fall.

The move comes in response to a draft movement that has circulated on social media touting Hegseth as a potential candidate to run against the incumbent DFL senator and former Hennepin County Attorney.

“I’m certainly considering it,” Hegseth said from his home in Stillwater on Monday. “I’m very humbled to be considered.”

Hegseth has spent the past week with his wife, Samantha, and their 18-month-old son, Gunner. He is back in the states after a deployment with the Minnesota National Guard at Camp Julien in Kabul, Afghanistan, where he was a counterinsurgency instructor as part of a NATO detachment.

He left Afghanistan in late January and spent two weeks plus at Fort Dix, NJ, demobilizing and training his replacements. He arrived in Minnesota on Monday, Feb. 6 and is no longer on active duty, but will remain with the Minnesota National Guard.

No Conflict Now

Hegseth was contacted by the newspaper earlier this year about his potential political plans when Internet murmurs were heard. At the time, Hegseth, an Army captain, declined comment because of his military obligation.

With active duty now over, Hegseth said he is free to speak publicly about any potential political venture. By the end of this week, he hopes to be closer to making a decision.

Capt. Pete Hegseth, left, with three buddies watch as the snow falls at Camp Julien, Afghanistan, where Hegseth was a counterinsurgency instructor. (Photo submitted)

His name has been widely circulated on the Internet. He was executive director of Vets for Freedom from 2007-2010 and remains on the VFF board of directors. Two Minnesota veterans and VFF members who worked with Hegseth on Vets for Freedom state matters contacted Anne Neu of North Branch, a conservative political activist, to explore the draft movement.

She is listed as draft campaign manager on the Facebook page, MN4Pete. The campaign is also being billed as Minnesotans for Pete Hegseth.

“I’ve only looked at the federal piece,” Hegseth said this week. His decision could be tied to the expected court release on Feb. 21 of new congressional and legislative districts.

“I will definitely take a look at that,” he said of new districts. “It could present a unique opportunity.”

U.S. Senate seats are not involved in the redistricting, however. Hegseth said his decision will be made after meeting with close friends, his parents in Forest Lake and praying on the topic.

In the short time he has had to weigh the issue, Hegseth said he is aware that he would face a “formidable opponent” in Sen. Klobuchar. “There is a reason so few people have jumped into the race,” he said. Hegseth said he began the evaluation process with “eyes wide open.”

If he runs, Hegseth said he would need to shape a strategy that would pit Klobuchar’s popularity against her voting record which she would need to defend.

Draft Movement

Neu said on Monday she was inspired by Hegseth’s record and accomplishments as a young man. She said he could be a difference maker in the race.

She sees Hegseth much in the same light as Congressman Chip Cravaack of the Eighth District. Neu managed Cravaack’s huge upset over 18-term DFL incumbent Jim Oberstar in 2010.

Does she see something of Cravaack in Hegseth?

“Absolutely,” she said. “Every once in a while you [find] a candidate that has that certain something. This guy [Hegseth] has it.”

It was the same thing with Cravaack who came out of nowhere with no elective experience to claim a major upset, Neu said.

If Hegseth decides to run and wants her involvement in a campaign, she would oblige, Neu said She welcomes big challenges. “I really like working with a challenging race,” she said.

The Hegseth File

Hegseth has a long resume to his credit. The 1993 Forest Lake graduate earned a degree at Princeton University in 2003. Following graduation he was commissioned as an infantry officer in the U.S. Army National Guard in 2003.

In 2004 his unit was sent to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, where he served as an infantry platoon leader. He later served as an infantry platoon leader with the Army’s 101st Airborne Division in Iraq where he was awarded the Bronze Star, Combat Infantry Badge and a second Army Commendation Medal.

He worked briefly for the Manhattan Institute for Policy Research, but left the conservative think tank to become executive director of Vets for Freedom. He is now on leave from a master’s program at Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government.

If he decides to run for the Senate seat, it would not be the first time he has met the U.S. Senator or shared a stage with Klobuchar.

In April of 2011 at the unit’s deployment ceremony, Hegseth served as master of ceremony for the program. It was his job to introduce Sen. Klobuchar as the guest speaker.

Neu believes Hegseth has the right stuff to inject enthusiasm and raise money for the race which has three announced candidates who have done little in that regard.

“This is a guy who can change the face of the race,” Neu said.