WATERVILLE – Maine Senate Majority Leader Jon Courtney said Thursday that he’s running for the First District seat in Congress because of advice his father gave him years ago.

Courtney said his father, Terry Courtney, pastor at Mount Zion Chapel in Wells, told him to look beyond immediate circumstances and have vision.

Courtney, a Republican from Springvale, said Thursday in Waterville that while there’s never a good time or enough money to run for election, he recognizes it’s time for him to step forward.

Courtney said he visited Waterville as part of a five-stop tour to welcome the city to the First District — it was moved from the Second District under a plan approved last year to balance the population of Maine’s two congressional districts — and remind people that they don’t have to have Chellie Pingree as their congresswoman.

Late Thursday, after attending a fundraiser in Hallowell, Courtney said he would be the underdog in a race against Pingree, a Democrat who is seeking her third term.

“We understand that we are the dark horse in this race. We’d be naive not to think so,” he said. “But we are going to work hard and try to win this.”

Pingree is married to S. Donald Sussman, a financier and frequent Democratic donor who is a majority share owner of MaineToday Media, which owns the Morning Sentinel, the Kennebec Journal in Augusta, the Portland Press Herald/Maine Sunday Telegram and other media outlets in Maine.

Courtney described Sussman as an unfriendly business owner who has supported Democratic Party causes and campaigns.

“We cannot be discouraged by the fact we are running against a billionaire. By virtue of her marriage, Chellie is a billionaire,” Courtney said. “They have made no bones about it. They will spend any amount to win this election.”

Kate Simmons, Pingree’s re-election campaign manager, said Pingree would have no comment on Courtney’s remarks.

In the Republican primary, Courtney is running against Patrick Calder of Portland, first engineer on the cruise ship Pride of America.

Courtney said that in the last two years in Augusta, Democrats and Republicans have worked together to pass beneficial bipartisan legislation.

Building relationships is necessary to “solve problems that are bigger than any single one us,” he said. He said he would take his willingness and ability to work across the aisle to Washington, D.C.

Courtney, who owns Courtney Cleaners, said he knows the challenges of running a small business, paying for health care and filling the gas tank.

He said he knows that real solutions to problems come from Main Street, not Washington.

In the last two years, Courtney said, politicians in Augusta have achieved a number of successes for Mainers, including reforming welfare and cleaning up misuse of funds in the Maine Turnpike Authority.

Maine is on the way to recovery, Courtney said. In Washington, though, “there is no hope and the change has been for the worse.”

He cited the nation’s $15 trillion debt, which represents a $5,000 bill for every man, woman and child in the country. “I will not pass that on to my grandchildren,” he said.

Portland Press Herald Staff Writer Dennis Hoey contributed to this report.

Morning Sentinel Staff Writer Beth Staples can be contacted 861-9252 or at:

bstaples@centralmaine.com