Editor’s note: This article has been updated from the original published draft. The article said Mr. Terrell has first-hand experience with Somalia suspects. This is not the case, and the article has been edited accordingly to reflect the remarks of the candidate.
With 42 percent of Americans self-identifying as independent, according to one 2014 Gallup poll, the time has never seemed better for independent candidates to try their luck in a largely two-party game.
In May, Kevin Terrell, a candidate with the Independence Party of Minnesota, announced plans to run against Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.). During a phone interview for IVN, the one-time CIA contractor and consultant talked about why the North Star State should follow him to D.C.
Why are you running to unseat Sen. Al Franken and represent Minnesota?
There is a complete lack of detachment with Washington today when it comes to constituents. [Al Franken] votes 90 percent of the time with President Obama in a way that does not represent the interests of Minnesota. I think I have an approach that will ensure that happens in Washington. The result will mean better policy and better outcomes.
What experience do you feel you would bring to the U.S. Senate?
If I compare myself to Al Franken and [Minnesota U.S. Senate Republican candidate] Mike McFadden, I certainly have the most business experience of either of those candidates across most sectors of the economy. I’ve been most in touch in the community trying to improve the lives of fellow Minnesotans, and I can confidently assert that I have the most experience of anyone in the campaign.
You’ve worked for the Defense Intelligence Agency and served as a contractor with the Central Intelligence Agency. What is your position on some of the more controversial issues we see today concerning intelligence gathering?
Speaking from personal experience, as I dealt with NSA intelligence on a daily basis, I saw it pointed outside of the country at our enemies. I don’t have any problem whatsoever with data collection outside of the country. Absent a warrant, though, [the NSA] should never be used inside the United States.
I know how intelligence is generated, and I know what types of questions to ask — more so than either of my opponents. So if you’re looking for someone who can be an effective overseer of the NSA, and be a trusted member when it comes to sharing and gathering intelligence, that’s me.
If elected, you’d be the third independent in the U.S. Senate, next to Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Angus King (I-ME), but you’d have to caucus with the other 97 senators to be effective in passing legislation. Which of the two parties would you side with?
I’ll caucus with whichever side creates better opportunities for Minnesota. What I wouldn’t do in either case is support the GOP or the Democrats if [U.S. Sens.] Harry Reid or Mitch McConnell were the leaders. I see myself as a problem-solver who is not afraid to walk across the aisle — physically or figuratively. Based on the situation, based on who has the better facts on the ground, I’ll vote either way. I’m always open to a persuasive argument, and I don’t have large special-interest voters.
Speaking on the subject, what has your fundraising success been like so far?
It’s been limited. From a startup perspective, I do not have millions of dollars to throw into this election. I have some money. Our focus is on spreading the word, and we’re starting to have a positive impact. We’ll self-fund a little bit and leverage that up.
Did you take anything from the Eric Cantor upset in Virginia?
What it does say is that on-the-ground organization combined with a general distaste for Washington’s way of doing business can be a powerful combination. Yes, is the short answer. We’re going to have a level of organization and execution that’s better than what you’ve seen in the past.
Do you think you can win an election as an independent in a two-party dominated system? Why do you think it’s so difficult for third-party candidates in the United States?
I wouldn’t be running otherwise. I’m not a 5-percent guy. Some people have said, “Oh, you’re just running as an independent so your party can maintain its 5-percent status.” I think there’s a path to victory and it’s part of why I’m running. I think you’ll see that play out in an interesting way. There’s definitely an opportunity — weakness in both national parties as it plays out nationally and locally. We have the Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party, for example. It was the mother of all third-party movements, and Minnesota has been the only state in the union since 1996 to have multiple statewide candidates receive at least 10 percent of the vote.
And I’m qualified. I’ve done a lot of work on questions like state government accountability. In terms of life experience, my wife is an immigrant, and I have a nonprofit startup in education. These are all issues of critical importance to our nation, in our politics, and I don’t think another random millionaire is our solution to any of them. I don’t have any special interests besides the people of Minnesota.
Photo Credit: Kevin Terrell for U.S. Senate / Facebook