As part of ABC News' "14 For 14? project, which is tracking 14 political races that matter between now and November, we're rolling out a new segment in which we'll pick the candidates' brains, asking them what's animating their candidacy, what they think of their opponent, and a few personal questions too.
To kick off this election year Q and A series, we sat down with retired Col. Rob Maness, one of the three Republican challengers vying to unseat three-term Louisiana Democrat, Sen. Mary Landrieu. Maness is the tea party favorite in the Louisiana race but he appears to have some ground to make up - both in fundraising and the polls - to give Republican front-runner, Rep. Bill Cassidy, a run for his money.
In a recent interview with ABC News, Maness flexed his tea party muscles, saying that, if elected, he would not support Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., as the Republican leader in the Senate and would instead back a tea party alternative.
"There comes a time when someone's been in Washington too long and has lost touch," Maness said of McConnell. "Based on what I've seen, I would support somebody like a Rand Paul or a Ted Cruz to be the leader of the Republican Party in the Senate."
But Maness added that he doesn't think McConnell will even be around for another term. Like Landrieu, the Senate Minority Leader is up for re-election this year and is facing a full-frontal assault from the tea party in the GOP primary. Maness said he favors conservative businessman Matt Bevin in the Kentucky contest.
Maness spent a few minutes in the "14 For 14? hot seat. Here's an edited transcript of seven questions we asked the U.S. Senate contender:
1. Why are you running?
I'm running because I'm concerned about the future of our country, and I'm concerned about the country that my youngest grandson, who's 15 months old - I want him to inherit the United States of America that we inherited.
2. What is the single most important issue in this election?
The single most important issue of this election so far is the continued effects of the Obamacare health care law, and its negative effects on the economy in Louisiana.
3. What is one thing you have in common with Democratic incumbent Sen. Mary Landrieu?
Love of country. I love my country. I've never met my opponent, so I can't be sure, but just an educated guess that that would be the thing most in common.
4. If you could sit down face to face with Sen. Landrieu today, what would you tell her?
She needs to ask the President of the United States to delete this heath care law from our books, because it's hurting the folks that their party said they're trying to help.
5. This is your first run for political office, but you were in the military for many years. What's harder: Running for office or going to boot camp?
Boot camp, easily.
6. Are you a fan of the hit A&E series "Duck Dynasty"? And, if so, is there any chance we might see another "Duck Dynasty" endorsement in this election?
I am a fan of "Duck Dynasty," but I'm not as big a fan as my 9-year-old son William is. He tries not to miss a show, and he really loves those guys. But I don't know about any future endorsements, but we love what they do and what they stand for.
7. If you are elected to the Senate, what food would you most want to bring your colleagues to give them a taste of home?
There's a dish that I love in New Orleans called Duck Poppers, and they're made with duck and jalapenos and cream cheese, and a wonderful balsamic glaze on them. I think I'd bring that to my colleagues to give them a taste of Louisiana.