St. Petersburg, FL -- Mark Bircher has never run for political office before. But serving others has been the story of his life.

A graduate of the Naval Academy, Bircher was a fighter pilot who flew with the Blue Angles for three years. He was once deployed to Iraq and retired from the Marine Corp. Reserves as a Brigadier General in 2009.

Now the 60-year-old Bircher, who is also an attorney, wants to represent the people of Pinellas County in Congress. Bircher is one of three Republicans trying to replace the late C.W. Bill Young; the others are David Jolly and state Representative Kathleen Peters.

Monday, during a one-on-one interview with 10 News Bircher explained he's running for Congress because of his 10-year-old son.

"I'm worried that there's a chance that my son may not have as good an opportunity as I did when I was his age and that's what I want to try and re-establish," he said.

If elected, Bircher said his priorities would include requiring a federal balanced budget and repealing the Affordable Care Act.

But as a political newcomer comes an obvious question; can he win?

"I wouldn't be out here if I didn't think I had a chance. I do think I can win."

A recent poll by shows Bircher only trailing Jolly and Peters by roughly 10 points in the Republican primary. Impressive for someone with no political experience, very little name recognition and running a self-funded campaign.But Bircher believes those numbers will change, in his favor, once people get to know him.

"I don't have name recognition and our whole campaign is focused on getting it."

Working against Bircher is the fact that the Republican primary is just four weeks away on Jan. 14. Still Creative Loafing Political Editor Mitch Perry says Bircher has a chance to pull off the upset.

"He's got a great biography and people care about Bill Young and how close he was to military veterans' issues, this is a real live veteran here and he's walked the walk so to speak," Perry said.

The winner of the Republican primary will face Democrat Alex Sink and Libertarian Lucas Overby in the March 11General Election.

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