GRAND FORKS An Air Force veteran and motivational speaker perhaps best known for singing the national anthem at venues across the United States hopes to represent western Minnesota in Congress.

Mark Lindquist, 39, announced Thursday, July 1, that he plans to run as a Democrat for Minnesota’s 7th District seat in the U.S. House of Representatives. That congressional district encompasses almost the entire western third of the state and is currently represented by Michelle Fischbach, a Republican who’s served as a Minnesota state senator and, more recently, lieutenant governor.

Lindquist said his No. 1 policy proposal — one of 56 he outlines in a book, published last month, called “Platform of the People” — is to further fund and otherwise support research into potential health effects caused by the “burn pits” used by the U.S. military throughout the Middle East. More research, he feels, would pave the way for more VA benefits and health care coverage for veterans who were presumably harmed by the pits’ fumes.

“It is the Agent Orange of our generation,” Lindquist, who lives in Moorhead, according to his website bio, said in an interview. “Some of the healthiest men and women in America, which are the United States military members, are coming down with rare cancers and rare health effects that just, statistically, would not be present in healthy males and females of their age.”

He was reluctant to criticize Fischbach — “I don’t know her from Adam” — but said, were he in her shoes, he would have voted to certify the results of the 2020 U.S. presidential election, would have voted in favor of a commission to investigate the Jan. 6, 2021, uprising at Capitol Hill, and would have voted on Tuesday, June 29, to remove Confederate statues from the Capitol building. Fischbach voted against removing the statues, against forming a commission and against certifying the election results.

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Lindquist, a Korean adoptee, joked that he’s running for Congress because he can’t be elected president.

“This last year ... I almost saw the United States of America run itself off the rails,” he said, characterizing the country's response to the COVID-19 pandemic as "anemic" at best and "deadly" at worst. "I saw countries like New Zealand and Australia and other countries around the world get their act together when it came to a response to a global pandemic, and we did not.”

He touted a “new vision for American leadership” that’s outlined in another book he authored titled “America 2.0,” which was also published last month. Lindquist called it his version of Thomas Paine’s 1775 “Common Sense” pamphlet that argued against monarchic rule and claimed the then-incipient country could angle the arc of history by creating a new type of government. Lindquist said his book pitches a new political mindset.

“You agree with your neighbor on 80% of the stuff,” he said. “There’s so much more in common with Midwestern families and communities than we have that are our differences. And I’m going to help and hopefully lead people to focus on what we have in common, not what divides us.”

The district that Lindquist hopes to represent has leaned Republican but ultimately voted Democrat for years. Fischbach in 2020 defeated by a wide margin longtime representative Collin Peterson, a Democrat, who often broke ranks with his party on social issues such as abortion and gun control.

The general election will be in November 2022.