CHEYENNE — For four decades, Thomas Bleming has fought to eradicate communism from the African jungle to the Panamanian rainforest.

But now, the 65-year-old Lusk resident wants to take his fight for freedom to the U.S. Senate.

Bleming said Monday that he plans to run in the Republican primary next year against incumbent U.S. Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyo.

He’s the first person from any party to publicly announce a challenge to Barrasso, who will likely seek his first full term in office after being appointed to the Senate in 2007.

An Army paratrooper who won the Silver Star in Vietnam, Bleming later fought as a mercenary-for-hire in conflicts in Asia, Africa and Latin America. In 1979, a botched assassination attempt against dictator Manuel Noriega landed him in jail for 22 months.

Today, his soldier-of-fortune days are over, he said, though he said he plans to campaign around the state with an AK-47 on back as a symbol of his support for gun rights.

Bleming said he’s running on the GOP ticket simply as a way to get on the ballot, and his campaign stances diverge drastically from the mainstream Republican platform. He favors a government-run universal health care system for all Americans, and he said he would push to withdraw all American troops from Iraq and Afghanistan. He also favors abolishing the Federal Reserve system and tearing up all of America’s IOUs to other countries.

“I’m going to be discussing issues that have been swept under the rug for decades,” he said.

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