But he also took another step: He lined up a campaign staff to challenge freshman Rep. Kathy Dahlkemper (D) in Pennsylvania's Third Congressional District. "If they can do this to Mike Kelly in Butler, Pa., they can do that to anyone," he said in an interview at a campaign stop at a German festival in Erie, Pa.
Washington has no common sense when it comes to creating private-sector jobs, he says. "Government doesn't understand the burden of creating jobs you're not going to be able to sustain," he says. "In business, you need common sense and to work hard. I work six days a week. You've got to recognize change and adjust very quickly…. In business, you fix; in government, you tax."
His plan: Cut corporate taxes, make the "death tax" go away, and cut the wage tax for six to 12 months.
At a campaign event in Erie, Kelly works the crowd as the outsider – the local businessman determined to bring his practical know-how to Washington. "I'm not really a politician; I'm a car dealer," he says. "The campaign is doing well, because the country is doing so poorly. I'd rather see the country do well."
Business credentials are a defining aspect of many Young Guns. "The vast majority of [Republican] challengers running this year have small-business backgrounds," says National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) spokesman Paul Lindsay.
In all, some 70 Republican small-business men – ranging from ranchers to high-tech start-up entrepreneurs – are in a race for a House seat, according to NRCC data.
But auto dealers, angered by the auto bailout launched by the Bush administration but largely implemented by the Obama administration, are on track to double their numbers in the house.