Jim Huffman is serious about issues ranging from health care to jobs to the war on terror.

But the Republican, who teaches constitutional law at Lewis and Clark College in Portland, also brings humor and humility to his bid to unseat Sen. Ron Wyden.

“I’m kind of out of place at the college, being conservative,” said Huffman, who stopped by the Democrat-Herald on Thursday. “I think of the roughly 50 faculty members at the law school, I can count on maybe four or five votes.”

Away from the Portland campus, where he’s worked for 37 years, he often finds himself swimming against perception.

“People think he’s a law professor, he’s got a beard, how can he be conservative?” Huffman said. “They think I’m an egghead, but I’m not.”

Huffman, 65, who has never before sought elective office, decided to run for the Senate after becoming frustrated over what he considers the out-of-control “irresponsibility” in the nation’s capital. That includes the economic stimulus programs and corporate bailouts that began under the Bush administration.

He was dismayed by Wyden’s support of the health care legislation — support that, in Huffman’s mind, violated important principles Wyden had been espousing for years, such as patient choice, portability of insurance, consumer incentives for preventive care and the termination of the third-party payer system.

Huffman would have preferred to address certain, specific areas of health care — such as making sure people who can’t afford care are still getting care, and injecting more competition into the picture.

Huffman grew up in Bozeman, Mont. He said the toughest jobs he’s ever held were pulling green chain at a stud mill on the 6 p.m. to 2 a.m. shift and serving as a bowling alley pin setter at the rate of 10 cents a game.

Of the six men on the Republican ballot for the Senate nomination in the May 18 primary, Huffman is the first to sit for a D-H interview so far.

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