"I'm the guy at the party that ends up having a long discussion about the gold standard off on the side while everyone else is getting drunk."

The Republican primary in the special election to fill Rep. Gabrielle Giffords' seat is getting crowded.

John Lervold, a U.S. Army veteran who now works as an interrogation instructor at Fort Huachuca in Sierra Vista, has joined the race in what will be his first run for public office.

Lervold becomes the fourth Republican to officially declare for the Republican primary, following state Sen. Frank Antenori; sports broadcaster and businessman Dave Sitton; and Jesse Kelly, who narrowly lost to Giffords in 2010.

More announcements are expected. Republican candidates have until Feb. 27 to collect 782 signatures.

Lervold said he's running because he identifies with people of the district and doesn't want to see Arizona go the way of California, where he was born and raised. He's been in Arizona since 2008, when he moved to Sierra Vista after leaving the Army.

Running for office has always been something he's thought about, being someone who loves politics and follows the topics very closely, he said.

"I'm the guy at the party that ends up having a long discussion about the gold standard off on the side while everyone else is getting drunk," said Lervold, referring to a monetary policy based on the specified value of gold. "So, I figured at some point I should I get into politics."

Giffords' resignation set up the special election with a primary on April 17, and the special general election on June 12. Giffords stepped down to focus on her recovery from being shot in the head in an assassination attempt on Jan. 8, 2011.

In the Democratic primary, state Rep. Matt Heinz of Tucson is the only candidate to officially announce, but Giffords' longtime district director, Ron Barber, is likely to make his candidacy official sometime this week.

Lervold said he has been a Libertarian for 15 years but decided to move to the Republican column for this election. He already was registered for the August primary in what will be called Congressional District 2 when Giffords announced her resignation.

But if a Republican other than him wins the special election, he said he won't run in the August primary.

Lervold said he would work to reduce wasteful spending by the U.S. government and remove burdensome government regulations that stifle employment and economic growth. The U.S. government must lower taxes so the private sector can grow, Lervold said. He also advocates term limits for federal legislators.

He regularly speaks at tea-party functions in Cochise County, but said he doesn't necessarily align with all groups that go by that name.

"When it comes to fiscal sanity, cutting spending and just getting the country back under control and pushing it back towards a limited constitutional government, that's what I'm for," Lervold said. "So if there is a group out there, whether they call themselves the tea party or anything else, and that's what they stand for, I am with them."

Lervold knows his opponents have more name recognition than he, but he said that's not insurmountable.

"Not all that name recognition is good," he said. "It cuts both ways. Someone may not know who I am, but they know who the other guy is, and they don't like the other guy."

He served as a platoon sergeant in Iraq from 2007 to 2008, his bio shows. He left the Army in 2008 to train and certify Department of Defense interrogators at Fort Huachuca.

Contact reporter Brady McCombs at 573-4213 or bmccombs@azstarnet.com