When Mark Bircher decided to run for Congress, he first had to search Google to learn how to run for Congress.
The commercial airline pilot and retired Marine Corps brigadier general is the sole political newcomer in the Republican primary, which can have its pluses and minuses. For one, he said, without seasoned consultants or paid campaign staff, even if you follow the instructions on the Florida Division of Elections website, you still can goof something up when you’re trying to qualify.
“On Nov. 18 I drove my car to Tallahassee and filed Form 27,” he said in an interview with The Tampa Tribune editorial board. “I also filed another form you don’t need to and paid the filing fee.”
Unlike his two Republican opponents, Bircher is mostly self-funded. He’s also the least scripted and decidedly the most conservative. Although he seems to have the markings of a tea party candidate, Bircher said he hasn’t had much contact with the group.
The 60-year-old Seminole resident is passionate about the federal government and says it needs to get a lot smaller. When he talks about why he ran, though, he talks about the death of the American dream.
“We have a 10-year-old son,” he said, referring to himself and his wife, Jackie. “I think it’s the first time in American history where I can’t reasonably expect he’s going to have the quality of life that I have.”
He said he has seen too many local businesses close in recent years and blames the federal government.
When elaborating on this, the former Blue Angel is heavy on references to the framers of the U.S. Constitution and says the federal government should be substantially dialed back.
“The states created the federal government for one purpose: to serve the interest of the states,” he said. “Printing money, common defense, foreign policy and the post office.”
By contrast, former Congressman C.W. “Bill” Young, whose death in October left this seat open, was known for his ability to secure federal funding for local projects and companies — everything from University of South Florida to MacDill Air Force Base to the reservoir supplying much of Tampa Bay’s water to helping local companies land lucrative defense contracts. Bircher said he would support such allocations and reconciles his seemingly divergent viewpoints by considering some of Young’s earmarks as related to “common defense.”
“Rep. Young, everything he did in his district related to the common defense and is absolutely where we want to go,” he said.
Research dollars for universities, contribute to the general welfare, something the constitution also mentions, he said.
He supports a full repeal of the Affordable Care Act and thinks states ultimately should take over programs such as education, health care and, in an ideal world, Social Security. Bottom line, he said, is that he wants to drastically reduce federal spending.
“The lower House was designed to run every two years so that we had a short leash on how they were spending our money, and we could get rid of them if we lost confidence,” he said.