(Editor’s note: this interview was conducted in August 2009)
By: VA Blogger of Too Conservative
I asked Ben to describe the 2nd district. Ben started it off by calling it the “largest consolidation of military and defense”, and noted that he had personally been stationed at most of them. The district has a dynamic economy because of the military and tourism. He described the entrance to the Chesapeake Bay as a large natural asset, and the farm country of the Eastern Shore as “core America”, and described the people as largely middle-income military communities who are typically conservative.
I asked Ben to talk about himself. He talked about how he enlisted in delayed entry, and was in ROTC at the University of Florida before transferring to the Naval Academy. He says of himself that he is not a “Cuban-American”, but rather an American who was born in Cuba. He lived in a communist dictatorship, and sees comparisons to it when Obama talked about a “civil defense force larger than the military”, and by taking over private companies and appointing business leaders.
When talking to Ben, you quickly find out two things: he talks with a fiery passion at a great speed, and he tells a lot of stories. All under the field of describing himself, he told me stories of manning polls in Virginia Beach and dealing with ACORN, building a GPS reference station network and VDOT coming in afterwards and duplicating his work at taxpayer expense, meeting with Randy Forbes about technology, his meeting with Eric Cantor when Cantor encouraged him to run, and meeting with Thelma Drake when she did the same. He also mentioned how he marched at Reagan’s Inaugural and was on a cruise ship that was taken over by Palestinians.
I asked him to lay out the top three issues facing the 2nd District. In order, he listed a strong defense first. He opposes a 10% reduction in defense spending to transfer to civil servants. Second, he lists health care and the importance of taking care of retired folks. To Ben, there is a strong connection between those who are retired and bring strong families to the area and keep the community strong and crime low. Finally, he lists transportation. Because of the region’s strategic importance, we need to keep our infrastructure and our ability to move strong. The region faces both national security and natural disaster risks and more transportation options is better for our national security.
I asked Ben then to lay out some different issues that he feels passionately about and would adopt as “pet” issues. The first on his mind is fraud and wasteful spending and opposition to billions in stimulus funding. The second is protection of the 2nd Amendment. He points to his military background and belief in the ability to protect yourself, as he tells a story about being held up at gunpoint on Lynnhaven Parkway.
He feels especially strongly about encroachment on the right to protect yourself, remembering Castro’s policy of, “You give us your guns, we’ll give you bread”, resulting in police state where the government is the only ones armed and they’re everywhere.
His final issue is faith and family rights, including life , liberty, property, and the pursuit of happiness, which Ben takes all together to mean the ability to have free opportunity. Ben asks why so many around the world come to the United States, and says its because of its “fertile soil to create opportunity”. He feels strongly about government telling people how to raise their children or how to run their business.
I asked how Ben would stand out in a crowded field, and he responded that he was uniquely qualified in many different areas. First, his military background, as he was stationed at most of the bases in the 2nd District and part of the Joint Forces Command. He is also a thirty-year combat veteran. He has unquestioned roots in Virginia Beach and unquestioned business roots as a small business owner. He also says he has unquestioned conservative values and credentials, as well as a strong connection to community and various charities. His wife plays in the Symphony (they actually met a function), and they continue to give money to the cause.
In his view, their strategy for the primary is not to go negative, because that depresses turnout. Instead, he believes his resume and unique personal story will set him apart. Ben notes that his parents sacrificed to provide him a life in America, and now he wants to make that same sacrifice to represent the District.
When asked about beating Glenn Nye, he says that Nye is able to moderate his positions because he has to. However, his first vote is still for Nancy Pelosi as Speaker of the House, and his attempts to moderate are made difficult when he gets caught telling two different things to two different people, as in on Cap and Trade. Ultimately, Ben believes Nye and his voting record is too closely tied to President Obama, and that will hurt him in the end. Also, Nye doesn’t excite his own base, and candidates who don’t do that lose (Editor’s note: this was written before Creigh Deeds lost).
Ben believes that a strong grassroots wave will prove victorious in November 2010, and has spoken at tea parties and believes they will have a big impact on the grassroots.
In doing some background research, I noted that Ben expressed opposition to much, if not all, of the Democrats’ legislation, including card check, cap-and-trade, government health care, bailouts, and so on. I asked Ben if he could introduce a bill to repeal just one thing, which one would he prioritize. He responded that states with the highest tax rates, both income and sales tax, have the highest unemployment, and also have the highest amount of crime. He would work to reduce taxes and get government off of the backs of businesses and taxpayers, which he believes would benefit everybody across the board.
I asked point blank if Barack Obama was a natural born United States citizen. His response: “I’m not sure, and that troubles me.”
Finally, I asked how Ben’s campaign would use new media. He said that they intend to utilize it “more than anyone”. They want to treat blogs like the press and give them the same respect. They believe that social networking is where the people are and therefore where the voters. Ultimately, he believes new media is as integral to campaigns now as direct mail and door-knocking, and that they should all be integrated together, rather than standalone strategies.
The last segment of the interview was a Lighting Round, with the first word or phrase that came to mind for each of the following people or topics:
Glenn Nye: Two-faced
Thelma Drake: Servant
John McCain: Veteran War Hero, great American
Mark Warner/Tim Kaine: Didn’t’ endorse them, didn’t support them, didn’t support them financially
Barack Obama: Socialist policies
National GOP: Returning to its roots
Cap & Trade: Destructive
Card Check: Scary