Keith Grawert knows he’s a long shot to be elected to Congress from the 6th District, but the Republican believes he is the best equipped to defeat Democratic favorite Jon Ossoff in a potential runoff June 20.

“If money weren’t a factor, I’d probably have the best chance of going up against him one on one,” he said. “That would be an interesting race because we’re similar in age, we have similar stories, and there’s good contrast to what I have done in my life vs. what he has done.”

Grawert, who grew up in the district in Dunwoody, was a student at Duke University when the terrorist attacks Sept. 11, 2001, inspired him to join Air Force ROTC. After graduation, he served 14 years in the Air Force and Air National Guard as a pilot with multiple deployments in the Middle East, South Korea and Eastern Europe.

In 2014 he joined the elite 89th Airlift Wing, where he flew some of the nation’s most senior leaders around the world, including Vice President Joe Biden, first lady Michelle Obama, the secretary of defense and members of Congress.

He said that serving in the armed forces and flying around politicians such as Biden helped him realize there was another way to serve. So when Tom Price was nominated for health and human services secretary, Grawert decided to grab the opportunity to run for Congress.

What he didn’t anticipate were 10 other Republican candidates, as well as five Democrats and two independents, entering the April 18 special election.

“I know I need to get lucky, but I feel like if I could get my message out there to enough people, I could have a good shot in the race,” he said.

Grawert is frustrated by the lack of progress in Washington and wants to see change. He identifies as a common-sense fiscal conservative and is in favor of smaller government, free markets and lower taxes. He wants to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act but said he was not a big fan of the failed Republican health care plan.

As an Air Force veteran, he said national security is one of the strongest issues in his campaign. For example, he said certain personnel policies he encountered in the Air Force are out of date and weakening the military.

“I could spend another 25 years in the military, become a five-star general and still not be able to change some of the things that are wrong in the Defense Department,” he said. “If I really want to address some of the issues that I saw in the military, I need to be an elected official.”

Born in Northern California, Grawert moved to Georgia when he was 10. He graduated from Marist in 1999 and double-majored in electrical engineering and economics at Duke before earning a master’s in industrial engineering from Georgia Tech in 2010.

Although he has been to Israel three times with the Air Force, Grawert hasn’t been outside Tel Aviv and said he would like to travel more in the country.

“Having been over there and seeing what the Israeli state has to live with on a daily basis in terms of the constant threat, I’m a supporter of Israel,” he said. “In terms of our role in making peace, I think the United States has the power to bring both parties together.”

In response to recent anti-Semitic incidents, Grawert said the federal government needs to send the message that discrimination against any group is not acceptable.

Should Grawert not make it past the April 18 special election, he has several backup plans. He and wife Lauren are expecting their first child in May and plan to settle in metro Atlanta. He could begin flying for a commercial airline, go back to the military or remain in politics.

“The people that I have worked with in the military, I think, have been inspired by me running in this race,” he said. “Even if I don’t win, I can show people that a normal guy can participate in this process and give it a shot. Maybe then more normal people will try to get involved in government. That would be a victory for me.”