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Vincent Melkus, a former U.S. Marine from Hardin, is running for U.S. House as a Republican.

HELENA – Vincent Melkus, a 27-year-old former U.S. Marine from Hardin, filed for the U.S. House Tuesday as a Republican.

“I’m just an average citizen,” Melkus said. “I’m a real conservative. We need a choice, especially when it comes to conservatism.”

He is the third Republican to file for the seat being vacated by six-term U.S. Rep. Denny Rehberg, a Republican who is challenging Democratic U.S. Sen. Jon Tester this year. Seven Democrats also are running for the House seat.

“I’m just not happy with the current candidates,” Melkus said.

He is a full-time student at Colorado Mesa University, where he said he will complete his bachelor’s degree in finance this spring. Melkus said he returns to Montana frequently to visit his family in Hardin and Billings and will return here after college ends.

“I was waiting for someone else to get in the race,” he said in a phone interview. “When no one else did, I felt I better step in.”

Melkus said as a U.S. Marine, he took an oath to support and defend the U.S. Constitution against all enemies, both foreign and domestic.

“As a Marine, I was able to help defend the Constitution against foreign threats, and now I am asking Montanans to send me as their representative to defend it from domestic threats,” said Melkus, who served in the Marines in Iraq and Afghanistan.

He said the Republican Party can be divided into two groups — the establishment and the Tea Party — and Melkus aligns himself in the latter camp.

“My overall reason for running is I feel we’re straying from the Constitution,” he said.

Melkus said he believes Americans’ constitutional rights guaranteed by some of the Bill of Rights are under attack, including the right to keep and bear arms.

“Our economic liberties are being trampled on by the administration with Dodd-Frank and ‘ObamaCare,’ ” he said referring to federal financial and health care overhaul laws.

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Melkus said the United States faces major economic problems both in terms of fiscal and monetary policy.

In terms of fiscal policy, he pledged not to vote for an unbalanced budget in Congress or to raise the debt ceiling.

As for monetary policy, Melkus considers the Federal Reserve unconstitutional and would like to end it, returning to a strong dollar policy and to a gold exchange standard.

Other Republicans who have filed are Steve Daines, a Bozeman businessman who ran for lieutenant governor in 2008 on the ticket headed by Roy Brown of Billings, and Dennis Teske, a farmer from Terry.

Daines already has raised about $955,000 and as of Dec. 31 had about $631,000 left in the bank.

Melkus said he’s “totally aware” of Daines’ campaign financial advantages, saying, “I’m going to try to get some grassroots support.”

The seven Democrats running are: state Sen. Kim Gillan of Billings; Melinda Gopher of Missoula; Diane Smith of Whitefish; Missoula City Council member Dave Strohmaier; Rob Stutz of Helena; Jayson Ward of Hardin and state Rep. Franke Wilmer of Bozeman.

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