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The choice South Dakota voters face to pick a new U.S. senator is pretty clear, according to Independent U.S. Senate candidate Gordon Howie, who dropped by the Journal this week and agreed to answer five questions. Howie will face off in the Nov. 4 general election against candidates Mike Rounds, Rick Weiland and Larry Pressler in hopes of replacing outgoing Sen. Tim Johnson.

"I think if people want more of the same, they've got three other choices," said Howie, 65, a former state senator and representative from Caputa. "If they want to see this country turn in a different direction then I'm the guy."

Here are the answers to the Journal's questions, in Howie's own words:

You say even the Republican in the race (Rounds) is not a "true conservative." What makes you the one truly conservative candidate?

Are you suggesting that the other candidates are claiming they are conservatives? That is laughable because the difference is, if you look at the records, both Pressler and Weiland voted for Obama. How can you argue with a straight face that demonstrates conservative principles? You can't. If you're Mike Rounds and you're arguing you're a conservative, how can you look at his record of nearly doubling the state budget, increasing taxes, leaving us with a $127 million deficit? How can you argue that's conservative. My credentials are pretty clear. My record shows that I don't just say I'm a conservative but I actually believe it. The Argus Leader did an article that showed a national commentary saying I'm the most conservative candidate running in any competitive senate race. So I think the jury is in on that and so now the question is whether we listen to political sound bites at a time when even Democrats who voted for Obama want to portray themselves as conservatives or whether we look at records. We either vote for one of the great pretenders or we vote for someone with real credentials.

What are your top issues in the election?

Well, one of the top issues has to be the out-of-control government budgeting process. We need to cut spending. We need to reduce debt. And we need to stop government growth. Again, you look at all of the candidates, the field of candidates, do you really believe that if you want something other than more of the same, that you're going to get it from either one of the candidates who voted for Obama? I mean, if you like the way things are going, either one of them might be a great choice. Or do you think we're going to see a change if we vote for a candidate whose political record demonstrates that he's a tax-and-spend, government-growing liberal Republican? It's a no-brainer. If you want more of the same, there are three other guys. If you want somebody who will stand on principle and who is willing to believe that there is wisdom in limiting government, then, I'm the guy.

What would be the first thing you would do if elected to the U.S. Senate?

Well, the first thing I would do would be to join efforts to defund or stop Obamacare. I believe that it needs to be repealed in its entirely, defunded completely and then you have to focus on the fiscal issues of the day. You have to focus on putting a lid back on the debt ceiling. We cannot continue as a nation to spend our way into prosperity. It doesn't work that way. So I believe we need to put a lid on debt, cut spending and stop government growth.

Would you be in support of allocating more military resources to places like Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq, given the recent turmoil?

We have sufficiently cut our military to a point where it's frightening when you really look at it. The short answer to your question, would I be willing to support efforts to help people fight terrorism, whether it's in Iraq or wherever it's at? The short answer is yes. I don't think we have a choice. These people want to destroy us, and we either stand idly by or we support our friends and we join the fight in some measure.

How do you feel you could get anything done in Washington D.C. if elected as an Independent candidate without being an official part of either party?

Well, let me assure you that the Republican Party would welcome me in their caucus. They will want and need me in their caucus, and it would be my expectation to join the Republican caucus. I didn't abandon the Republican Party. I registered as an independent to run in this race because South Dakota voters need a conservative choice, and they didn't have one.

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Contact John Lee McLaughlin at 394-8421 or john.mclaughlin@rapidcityjournal.com

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