CONCORD, N.H. (AP) — Dan Innis, a Republican and dean of the University of New Hampshire business school, launched his campaign for Congress Wednesday by emphasizing his humble upbringing and outsider status.
Innis, who also owns a Portsmouth inn with his husband, announced his campaign via an online video. Though he's never run for office before, he said the national landscape is so dire given the growing deficit, national debt and Washington gridlock, he's determined to do something about it.
"I believe we are a government of the people, by the people. I'm one of the people, and I want to change the discussion in Washington," he told The Associated Press. "I think we need people to go down there to change Washington, not let Washington change them."
Innis said his comments were not directed at former Manchester Mayor Frank Guinta, who also is seeking the Republican nomination in the First District, though he said he would take a different approach than Guinta because he is not a career politician. Guinta, who was twice elected to the state Legislature and served two terms as mayor, represented the district for one term in Washington before being defeated by Democrat Rep. Carol Shea-Porter in 2012.
Innis, 50, grew up in Ohio, where his father sometimes worked two jobs and the family struggled to stay afloat. He was the first in his family to attend college, and began his academic career at Ohio University in 1991 as an assistant professor of marketing. In 2002, he became dean of the University of Maine's college of business, public policy and health, and in 2007, was named dean of the Whittemore School of Business and Economics at the University of New Hampshire. He is stepping down from that position Nov. 1 but will remain on the faculty.
"People sort of look at where I am now and they might think, 'Oh, this guy's ivory tower,'" he said. "Far from it."
Innis said his four priorities in Congress would be controlling spending, shrinking the size of the federal government, reforming the tax system and making smart investments in infrastructure and education. He doesn't have a specific list of targets, but said Congress must stop lurching from crisis to crisis and come up with a long-term, systematic budget approach.
He also wouldn't say whether he would have supported House efforts to defund President Barack Obama's health care overhaul law by linking it to spending resolutions to keep the government open. He said blame for the shutdown starts with the president, though he said Congress also is responsible.
"Obamacare is a disastrous, big-government takeover of the health care system. While I support repealing Obamacare, I think we've got to be realistic," he said.
Innis insisted he will be able to attract enough support and financial backing to be successful. He also said he doesn't think the fact that he is gay will become a campaign issue.
"It shouldn't be a factor at all," he said. "It's part of who I am, but it certainly doesn't define me. New Hampshire has marriage equality, (the Defense of Marriage Act) is a thing of the past, the issue has been decided in New Hampshire."