Stace Nelson knows he has a formidable task. Former South Dakota Gov. Mike Rounds is the prohibitive favorite among Republican candidates seeking the party's nomination for the U.S. Senate seat in 2014. But that isn't stopping state Rep. Nelson, who lives in tiny Fulton in Hanson County west of Sioux Falls, from pushing to win the GOP contest.
The other Republican candidates are Rounds, Larry Rhoden and Annette Bosworth. While they all tout conservative credentials, Nelson in a Friday interview said he's the lone conservative in the race.
"You've got several chameleon conservatives who are trying to fool South Dakotans," he stated.
Nelson conceded he is "taking on a rich Goliath." He also admitted that moderate Republican lawmakers aren't going to support his campaign.
But he said South Dakota voters overwhelmingly want a true conservative, so he can win by tapping a bloc of West River libertarian and tea party Republicans. Nelson said Rounds may have something of an "Achilles heel" with West River voters.
"We are seeing our campaign gaining momentum. We are out there working our keisters off," Nelson said.
He said he was the last Republican to enter the field because he had waited for a solid conservative to run. Not seeing that, Nelson said he agreed to listen to the South Dakotans who "begged" him to run.
Nelson said he's the best conservative because he has a sound voting record on fiscal issues, casting dissenting votes 12 times on tax and fee increases, although he voted for a few fee increases.
"I've actually opposed the expansion of state government," he said.
Nelson also pointed to being the best versed candidate on national security issues, after a long career as a Marine.
"I am doggedly trudging toward D.C." he said.
The senate position is an open seat because U.S. Sen. Tim Johnson, D-S.D., is retiring after three terms. The Democrat seeking the seat is Rick Weiland.
In other news this week, former U.S. Sen. Larry Pressler, the Republican who lost when Johnson won his first seat in 1996, is weighing a Senate campaign as an independent.