Wikinews interviews former Republican U.S. Senator Bob Smith on his latest run for office

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Earlier this month, former Republican U.S. Senator Bob Smith announced his candidacy for Florida's open Senate seat in the 2010 midterm election. Smith, who was one of New Hampshire's senators for two terms — which amounts to twelve years — said he is running for office in his recently adopted home state due to his disapproval of the direction in which America is headed. He is very optimistic about the conservative change he can potentially bring to Congress which is currently controlled by liberal-minded members of the Democratic Party.

Smith has, however, some major hurdles to overcome in the Republican primary. He is facing two well known politicians who have been elected to statewide office numerous times. The chief of these is current Governor Charlie Crist, a moderate-to-liberal who is currently leading in the polls. The second is former Speaker of the Florida House Marco Rubio, a center-right 38-year-old who has been criticizing Crist for months on the support he has shown for President Barack Obama's controversial economic stimulus package.

Despite trailing both in recent polls, Smith believes that the polls themselves are irrelevant as the primary is over one year away. He is devoting the remainder of this summer to building up grassroots and financial support for his campaign.

Wikinews reporter Joseph Ford had the opportunity to speak with him about his run this past weekend.

"We must deliver a message that appeals to all members of the Republican Party, and that will appeal to Floridians in the general election," Smith proclaimed. "I am in this race because I want to make my experience as a U.S. Senator available to my fellow Floridians."


 ((Joseph Ford )) Why are you running for the U.S. Senate? What motivated you to do this?

 ((Senator Smith )) :Like many other Floridians, I have been watching with dismay as the cascade of economic crises
has unfolded over the last couple of years. The bursting real estate bubble, the credit crunch, the transformation of Wall Street and the failure of American industry have shaken America to its core. We as a nation are still struggling
to understand the causes of these events and judge whether the hasty actions that our government has undertaken in response to these events will do more harm than good.
In addition, we now face a nuclear threat from North Korea and, soon, Iran. The Taliban is threatening both Afghanistan and Pakistan. Terrorism continues to plague the free world.
As our country confronts this period of economic and international turmoil, the Republican Party seems to have lost its way. Many Republicans feel disenfranchised by the spending orgy and big government approach of the Bush administration. Republicans are uneasy with the current administration’s approach to these economic and international issues, yet appear to lack the leadership to provide solutions.
We are in the midst of a violent storm. I can help lead Florida and the nation through this tempest.

 ((J.F. )) For many years, you lived in New Hampshire and represented it in the Senate. Seeing as you moved to Florida relatively recently, many are wondering if you know the state well enough to run for office in it. Do you feel that you are familiar enough with the issues many Floridians are facing such as skyrocketing unemployment, rising taxes and the foreclosure crisis?

 ((Smith )) :I am no stranger to Florida. My family and I have been enjoying Florida’s beautiful beaches and natural treasures for the last 40 years. My wife and I have lived in Sarasota for over six years.
Since we made Florida our home, I have worked in the real estate business and served as a founding director of a community bank. In addition, I spent three years as President of The Everglades Foundation, a non-profit organization headquartered in Miami, whose mission is restore and preserve the Everglades through community awareness and public-private partnerships.
I have enjoyed being a leader on issues affecting Floridians during much of my career. When I was the Chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, I worked with Governor Jeb Bush to restore the Everglades. I sponsored legislation funding Everglades restoration and guided the bill to passage by the Senate and the House. In addition, I am a proven advocate for issues about which Floridians feel strongly, including:
  • fiscal prudence,
  • protecting veterans and strengthening the military,
  • recognizing the importance of the space industry to the future and security of the country,
  • healthcare reform, and
  • protecting our state’s and our nation’s borders.
I have faced the issues of unemployment, taxes and foreclosures in Congress throughout my career in Congress. When I was elected to the House of Representatives in 1984, the country was just starting to recover from the recession of the early 1980’s. I participated in the response to the Savings and Loan crisis, which was similar to the current crisis in cause, if not in scope. When I became a U.S. Senator in 1990, it was not long before the country was in the midst of another recession and housing crunch. Though it proved to be the prelude to a much worse crisis, I also was involved with the actions taken by Congress to respond to the bursting of the technology stock bubble earlier this decade.
It is hard for me to sit on the sidelines during these troubling times. Republican Floridians need a seat at the table while the President and Congress are making decisions that will affect the future of our nation. As a senior senator, I can provide that seat at the table.

 ((J.F. )) Your opponents in the Republican primary are current Governor Charlie Crist and former Speaker of the Florida House Marco Rubio. Why do feel that you are a better candidate than either of them?

 ((Smith )) :I have great respect both for Governor Crist and Speaker Rubio. They have served the state well. My entrance into this race is a unique opportunity for Florida to elect a non-incumbent that has the knowledge and experience provided by two terms in the Senate.
I started my career in the U.S. Congress in 1984. I fought alongside President Reagan on cutting taxes and strengthening the military. My service on the Armed Services Committee for 12 years, where I was the Chairman of the Strategic Forces and Acquisition and Technology Subcommittees, provided me with critical knowledge in the areas of missile defense, intelligence and other national security issues.
With all due respect, Governor Crist and Speaker Rubio do not have the experience to provide leadership on the national and international issues that Florida and America face.

 ((J.F. )) Both Governor Crist and Speaker Rubio are currently raising funds and building up grassroots support for their respective campaigns. They also hold commanding leads over you in recent polls. Are you going to begin campaigning aggressively this summer? Do you believe that you will be able to substantially increase your standing in the polls anytime in the foreseeable future?

 ((Smith )) :I formally announced my candidacy in the first week of June, and I have just begun to actively campaign and raise funds throughout the state. I admit that I will have to work hard to achieve name recognition among Floridians equivalent to Governor Crist and Speaker Rubio. The election is over a year away, and polls this far out are not relevant.

 ((J.F. )) If you are able to win the primary, do you feel that you will be able to defeat U.S. Representative Kendrick Meek, the presumptive Democrat nominee, in the general election?

 ((Smith )) :As a preliminary matter, it is up to the Democratic Party to select their nominee. I can defeat whomever the Democratic Party nominates. I believe I can unite the Republican Party in Florida, and united we will prevail.

 ((J.F. )) If elected to the Senate, what will be your top priorities upon taking office?

 ((Smith )) :In 2010, we must deliver a message that appeals to all members of the Republican Party, and that will appeal to Floridians in the general election. I believe this message encompasses:
  • fiscal prudence – not just tax breaks, but controlling the growth of government,
  • ensuring that our veterans are protected and that our military has the resources it needs to protect our country,
  • reestablishing the integrity of the financial system,
  • expediting the disposal of government ownership interests in American business,
  • working with healthcare providers and other experts to achieve the goal of affordable health insurance, while ensuring that the government is not in the business of providing healthcare and that patient choice comes first,
  • fixing Social Security so that it is self-funded, as it was originally intended, and
  • revising our immigration policies so that they actually work.
These are tough issues to face, and Florida needs judgment and understanding to accomplish these goals.

 ((J.F. )) Florida, a state whose legislature and executive offices are dominated by Republicans, went for Democrat Barack Obama by a slight margin in the 2008 presidential election. Do you believe that your staunchly conservative views, which contrast the moderate-to-liberal ones of Governor Crist and the center-right ones of Speaker Rubio, will appeal to Florida's largely centrist voting base?

 ((Smith )) :Too often political pundits use labels ranging from “staunchly conservative” to “liberal” to inflame tensions within the party, cause division and divert our focus from the pressing issues that face the country. We need to put aside the political scales and come together to solve the tough problems facing the nation.
That being said, I proudly identify myself as a conservative. I have two decades of votes in the House and Senate to demonstrate my conservative leadership on economic, national security and social issues. In addition, I also have been a leader on many environmental issues, such as Everglades restoration, for which I have been nationally recognized.

 ((J.F. )) Have you received any notable endorsements so far in your campaign?

 ((Smith )) :I have not sought nor received any endorsements. I stand on my record, rather than on recommendations of others.

 ((J.F. )) If your standing in the polls is no more favorable than it is now by the end of this year, will you consider running for another office instead of U.S. senator, such as State senator or representative?

 ((Smith )) :No. I am in this race because I want to make my experience as a U.S. Senator available to my fellow Floridians. If they decide I should stay retired from the Senate, then I will stay retired from public life entirely.

 ((J.F. )) Is there anything else you would like to say about you or your campaign to the thousands reading this right now?

 ((Smith )) :I know many of you do not know me, and have not yet had a chance to meet me. I invite you to visit my website to read more about my campaign.


This exclusive interview features first-hand journalism by a Wikinews reporter. See the collaboration page for more details.