CD8 GOP contender Jesse Kelly on taxes, jobs and gas prices
CD 8 Republican candidate Jesse Kelly answers questions on topics most important to viewers.Photo: Video by kgun9.com
Congressional District 8 candidate Jesse Kelly sat down with KGUN9 News anchor Jennifer Waddell to talk about the issue in advance of the June 12 special election. Below is a transcript of their conversation.
Jennifer Waddell: We are continuing our Project Red, White, and Blue Special Election coverage with Jesse Kelly this afternoon. Jesse I want to welcome you. I know some of these questions are going to sound a little familiar because we've done this before, but they're definitely worth hearing from you once again, before the general election. So lets just start off with a little bit of back ground. Tell me what qualifies you to represent District 8?
Jesse Kelly: Well, I'll say this, a simple understanding of a budget right now qualifies somebody to be in the United States House of Representatives, because clearly they do not. We're $15 trillion in debt so simply understand, you have to spend less than you take in is an important quality. I'm a United States Marine Corps combat veteran, I fought for this nation, and I'm a business man, I managed commercial projects for the family business, Don Kelly Construction. That gives me the knowledge of not only budgets, but how people work, how money works, and how we can become prosperous again in this nation.
JW: I know after the 2010 election which was close for you, I know you had a lot of pride in that election. You guys moved back to Texas for your family, to relocate for work and that kind of a thing, how much time have you been able to spend here since coming back?
JK: Actually we spent all of our time here, including immediately after the election, we didn't move anywhere. Tucson is where my wife and my two sons are, that's were we're planning on raising those two boys. I manage projects all over the nation, and I had to manage one there for a little while.
JW: Let's talk about some things that set you apart from your opponents.
JK: Well I'm 6 foot 8, and I believe that Obamacare should be repealed. I believe the $500 billion in Medicare cuts that are contained in Obamacare, the rationing with the independent payment advising board. These things have to be stopped, we cannot ration care to seniors and we cannot cut $500 billion in Medicare, so I believe we need to repeal Obamacare.
JW: What do you think are the three most critical issues facing Southern Arizona right now?
JK: The economy. It's all about the economy, and contained in that is jobs, and gas prices. Right now, people need jobs and those who have a job can't afford the gasoline to get to that job. We can lower gas prices in this nation, we can lower our energy bills. It's about summer here in Tucson, so that means a lot of things to a lot of people. The sun is nice but that means that power bill goes up far more than we need it to down here, we can reduce those power bills, we can reduce those gas prices by using American energy, and that also will create jobs.
JW: You work for your family business, you said that the budget is something that is really important to you, lets do a role play, lets talk about an example, maybe a project you worked on for the family business, and how you completed it on time, on budget, and how you go about with that motivation and that kind of operation.
JK: Well, it's a little bit easier on my job because at my job I don't get to go back to the tax pay area. If we go over budget, I lose my job, I get in trouble, that's the problem we have. We have not incentivised the government to stay within a budget. In my job you have to plan in ahead, that's the beauty of it. That's what we need to send to Congress, so people can understand that looking ahead matters, what are we spending now, what are we going to be spending in the future, and can we stay within that budget. That's all it is, and it's not that complicated because because people do it in their homes every single day. It doesn't have to be done as a construction project, as I've done it. It can be done in your home. Families sit down and decide, this is what we're taking in, so this is what we can afford to spend. It's almost as if government doesn't look at what their taking in . They just simply sit down and say look, this is what we're going to spend, and if we have to go over, we just go back to the taxpayer to cover that bill, and that's just wrong.
JW: Is there a particular project that you worked on that you are particularly proud of?
JK: You know we did a project in Ajo actually, Ajo, Arizona, many of you are familiar with it, and I am particularly proud of that project, it was a project that we made money on, a lot of people worked very hard on it, but I'm very proud of my work on that project. It's a water line project that was a private job, it was done for Freeport-
JW: Let's move on to border security. I want to talk about, your connection to the border, and whether you have visited the border.
JK: Several times. In fact, we have a You Tube of one of the times we toured the border, we've toured it several times, we've seen the lack of security we have down there, our border patrol agents are asking for man power there asking for resources. I have several good friends including people I've served in the United States Marine Corp with who are actually stationed down here. They have to supply their own double AA batteries for their radios. We have virtually no fencing in some areas where people are free to come and go, the narcotics through this district, we import crime through this district, we need to put a stop to that and build out double layer border fence.
JW: Would that be your plan then to secure the border, build the double layer border fence?
JK: Absolutely build the double layer border fence. Give the border patrol agents the man power and resources they need, while also increasing the size in our port of energy. See San Diego. they built there double layer border fence, violent crime dropped. But they also increased the size in the port of entry so again as the old saying goes, a high wall but a low gate, we need that commerce, we want people coming back and forth, we just want it the right way.
JW: How would you fix the immigration system if you see it to be broken?
JK: I do see it to be broken, and what we need is mandatory E-verify. I know in our company, Don Kelly Construction, everybody goes through E-verify, because when people who are here illegally and not able to find a job. They will return to where ever their home country is, and come back to this country the legal way, the right way. There are no bigger patriots in the United States of America, than those who have immigrated here the legal and right way, they wave their flag high.
JW: Let's move on the the economy now and talk about what you would do to create jobs in Arizona, do you have maybe a three-pronged approach or a few things that you would do to create jobs?
JK: Maybe that's part of the problem we had in the past, or currently with our government. Government cannot create jobs. Businesses create jobs. Our government over the past decade has spent more money supposedly in the interest of job creation than any government in the history of mankind yet we still have 14% real unemployment when you count the unemployed, those who stopped looking for work, and those who are working part time, but want full time jobs. Businesses create jobs, and right now we have the highest corporate tax rate in the world at 38%. That is our corporate tax rate. That needs to be reduced. The United States of America cannot tax businesses more than any other nation because businesses will move and we have seen a lot of that. We see business taking their jobs, those American jobs, and they're taking them overseas. We need to stop exporting jobs to China and start bringing them home. Also investment taxes, when we talk about taxes on an investment that is liquidity in the market, that's pumping money into the Unites States economy. We need to tell investors from across the world that United States is still a place you can come do business.
JW: We have a question from one of our viewers, Keisha Richardson says, "If elected, would you vote for HB 4016 that's sponsored by Congressmen Raul Grijalva, which aims to keep the Cherrybelle postal processing center in Tucson open, would you vote for that?
JK: Yes, because our post office, especially our Cherrybelle post office, is a vital part of the Tucson community, many businesses rely on that. We have a reputation in Tucson as being anti-business, we cannot continue to send the signal to businesses who are considering coming here and that we don't want their business .
JW: You have said using American energy and doing that to lower some of the gas prices, talk to us specific about what type of energy you're referring to and where it would come from?
JK: All kinds, and everywhere for lack of a more specifically way of putting it. We're currently using 2% of our off-shore drilling capability, we're using 6% of our land-drilling capability and we're not just talking about oil, we're talking about natural gas, clean coal, uranium, all forms of energy should be used and none should be chosen over another, because when the government gets involved and picks this energy sector over that energy sector, or does what they're doing now and that's blocking leases to oil companies. The person who pays is not the oil company, it's the American consumer. Right now people can't afford to drive their children to work. We need to reduce gas prices. The President's own Energy Chief says to increase gas prices. The President has been caught saying he wants to increase energy prices, that's not what we're about here in the United Sates of America, and it's more than just gas prices. It's more than the power bill, it's jobs, it's the deficit, it's the debt. We talk about Social Security and Medicare and how we fulfill the bets we are obligated to fulfill, energy will bring us the wealth, we need to do so.
JW: When we're talking about gas prices, There are a few factors in that high price, which does affect people, one of the other factors here is the delay and the refining process which we read about. Any suggestions on how to speed up that process?
JK: I'm actually glad you brought that up, it's one of the key factors in why the price continues to increase, and sadly in the 6 months alone we've seen three more oil refineries closed in the United States of America and they're not closed for some random reason, they're not closed for market reasons, they're closed specifically because of the government regulation that is put down by the Environmental Protection Agency. If we continue to allow government agencies to punish oil companies, punish natural gas companies, coal companies. We currently have no more coal plants because of EPA regulations, then we will not succeed. We must stop punishing the energy producers in this nation and start embracing. We're talking 2 million jobs in oil alone. I think we could use 2 million good paying jobs in the nation.
JW: How do you balance the need for drilling, and other resources for energy, versus some of well documented environmental impacts things like dusting or water quality issues. Those are real issues. so how do you address or drawn the line with this government involvement that you were talking about between the safety, and helping the people who live in these areas, versus the government involvement?
JK: We are talking about real issues and you bring up an excellent point, if we're talking about protecting people's homes, protecting people's water, these are critical things that need to be done and monitored. But if we're talking about some kind of unknown reason or made up science that why we can't open a new pipe plan then that's what needs to be stopped. We need to be good stewards of our environment, but our advances that we see especially today in technology allow these energy companies to protect our environment while giving us the energy we need, we talk about about it all the time, it's the gigantic oil field in Alaska. They say the environmental impact of that would be literally the size of a football stamp, the size of a postage stamp on a football field. That's a tiny environmental impact and a lot of oil and lower gas prices in the United States of America.
JW: Health care now. How do you see our system as it stands and what way would you propose to change it?
JK: I do believe we have the highest quality care in the nation, other countries believe that as well, to have had the government take over their system, their dignitaries their government officials, they still fly to the United States of America for their medical procedures. We can still be proud of our medical system of this nation. But what we have is the cost of care growing out of control, and a lot of that is because of the government's overreached. Currently insurance companies are not forced to compete across state lines. Businesses are not allowed to pull together to purchase insurance, individuals such as myself, anybody they're not giving the same tax breaks that employers are given to purchase insurance. It should not be this huge complicated process, that can only be done to your employer. Any American should be able to go home, go on line and purchase a health insurance plan that is tailored made for them. In short, the government already controls 50% of the system, and that's why the costs are going out of control. We need less government interference in order to make the insurance companies with each other. We don't need to give them breaks. We need to let them compete with each other, and as a result we all see higher quality and lower cost of care
JW: You had said previously that health care is a privilege not a right, so how does someone go about earning that?
JK: The same way somebody goes about earning everything, you see the real question is if something is considered a right, then with a right comes a responsibility, so if it's a right who has a responsibility to pay for it, what health care is, is necessary for every American, the only way we can deliver the highest quality, and lowest cost of care is through the free market, and that's been proven time and time again. The free market can provide health care that no government system can, and we see that with the terrible stories we hear out of Canada, in Britain, and other places we're people are literally sitting in an ambulance outside of a hospital for hours at a time waiting for care under their supposedly compassionate government system. It's not compassionate to allow the government to control things.
JW: On Medicare and Social Security, let's talk a little bit about that, were you stand. In a 2009 interview you were quoted as saying, "I would love to eliminate the program", referring to Social Security. In a news release for an event earlier today you had said we need to protect Social Security, Medicare, and Tri-Care, so let's talk about your stance and maybe how it's changed.
JK: Actually it has not changed. In fact, that 2009 interview and any interview that anyone could ever find, if people would read past the first sentence and go into the 20 that are in there I talked about it in 2009, 2010, 2011, and I'll continue talking about it in 2012. I've always talked about how important it is to protect the benefits that seniors have earned, these are not welfare programs, we will protect the benefits that seniors have earned. In fact I'm the candidate in this race with an actual plan in order to bring in the funding we need to protect those benefits see we're not simply saying something to say it, we actually believe it on this campaign.
JW: Let's talk about it. Tell us about your plan.
JK: Energy and jobs. Right now you heard me say earlier about the 2 million jobs from the oil industry alone, energy is not only a way of the future not only to bring down gas prices and jobs but it will bring in the revenue we need and create the economic growth we need, we need to remove the government block from it allow the energy companies go in get that energy out of the ground and develop our abundant natural resources that would in turn grown our economy and bring in the revenue we need to take care of our seniors.
JW: Would you be in favor of supporting the seniors who have paid in who are owed to what they put into the system and then at some point figuring out a way to cut it off, to say everyone whose paid in up until this point this is what you deserve, this is what you get and changing the system at some point?
JK: I think we should figure out how to give people options. People always want options in this country. We are called the land of the free, that's not something, we just don't put that out there because it sounds nice. We put that out there because that what we were founded on and we always support options for the American people, but we still have to protect the seniors that have earned.
JW: Let's talk a little bit about foreign policies and American issues, and the President's plan to pull our combat troops out of Afghanistan by the end of 2014, do you support that decision?
JK: What I support ... Well, the President should never have gone anywhere and told the enemy, told the people we're fighting in Afghanistan, when we're leaving. I don't think there's any person who ever fought a battle or commanded a battle in the history of mankind that would say that's a good decision, to tell the enemy when you're leaving. But right now the politicians are fighting the war. We are not allowing our generals to fight the war, we are fighting the war to look good on news, no offense, but not fighting it to win, if we're not going to fight it to win if we're going to continue to put these rules of engagement for men and women in combat. They're not allowed to fire at night, they're not allowed to fire until fired on, then just bring them home. It's time to bring them home if we're going to continue to let the politicians fight the war and I believe we will.
JW: The threat of nuclear war and weapons in the hands of the enemies is something that really worries a lot of people. What do you think the US role should be in preventing these hostile nations from acquiring nuclear weapons?
JK: The US role should be always to protect the American people first and foremost. That is the job of the United States government. If we feel like any type of weapon of mass destruction is going to fall into the hands of a group that will attempt to use it on the American people then that group must be stopped.
JW: By any means necessary?
JK: By any means necessary. That is the job of the United States government to protect the American people.
JW: We know that you have placed a lot of issues on veterans issues, let's talk about your service record, lets talk about your past in the military.
JK: I joined the United States Marine Corps in 2000. I was already in the Marine Corps when 9/11 came about, and I led a swat of United States of Marine infantry men in the Iraq invasion and as a result as the experiences I've been through, veterans are precious to me. I believe we all enjoy freedoms everyday, we enjoy the amazing life we have in this country everyday, it's not by accident, it was no politician, not Washington that provided those, it was the soldier, it was the airmen , it was the marine, it was the sailor. They provided these freedoms to us, and so as a result, we need to protect our veterans and take care of them, they are our most prized natural resource.
JW: You being a veteran and having come back to civilian life seemed to have assimilated quite well back into normal routine that is a struggle for many of our veterans. How did you do it, how did you come back, and put all of your experience in the military behind you, and how do you explain how others don't , those who really struggle as veterans?
JK: Well, everybody's situation is different. I was blessed to have not only a great church when I came back, I have a great family great parents, great sisters, and I found a great wife. I met my wife when I came out of the Marine Corps. I met her right down here, she was actually on a gymnastics team at the University of Arizona, and she's the reason I had blessings and lucked out in ways that other people do not. We do need to protect our soldiers who come home and struggle with these things, because the struggles are real, as you've said I've seen it I been through it, and I know what's that like. To come back home, come into the real world again and it is a tough transition that we should be there to help with.
JW: Do you think there should be any kind of mandatory type of procedure or session or therapy that our returning soldiers go through, that is not something optional?
JK: I think everything should be optional, those are personal choices. When we start making sessions mandatory, classes mandatory, that's not a solution. To bring a veteran home and then tell him or her they must go through this class, or that class. I think we need to have options there and not just government options, although those should be there. The private sector is able to provide those options in amazing ways, church is able to provide those options in amazing ways, as I said church is charities, there are many options out there for people who have their arms open, there are places for veterans to go, and I do pray that they find those resources when they need them because we do treasure them.
JW: Let's talk about what you would be willing to cut, you've got ten options on the table in the budget, what are the first things that you cut from a budget?
JK: I think the first thing we can eliminate, we can go through the government programs such as bureaucracy. These are unelected bureaucrats that are currently putting rules and hurting the American people, and even bureaucracy that some people may like, we can go through the EPA, the Department of Energy, all these departments we don't have to do these massive drastic things, what about just a one percent reduction in spending for each and every department, that's over $40 billion right away we saved the American taxpayer. Also, we have many federal workers who are making 30% more than a private sector worker doing the exact same job, let's get that back in line in what the private sector is doing. These are things we can do immediately, but I have to tell you, when spending has gotten this out of control, what's not necessarily what we should cut, it's what we should fund. I do believe Mitt Romney said it best, when he said we do need to ask ourselves when it comes to ourselves, the same thing we want to spend money on is it worth borrowing money from China to spend it on this, because that's what we're doing. We're borrowing forty cents of every dollar we spend , we cannot continue on this path. $5 trillion in new debt in the last year alone. We must put a stop to that immediately.
JW: I want to talk a little about the 2nd Amendment, the right to bear arms. I would like to get your take on whether you think there's a right to bear arms and whether there should be the right of stable citizens to bear arms, and I would like for you to argue your stance on the 2nd Amendment and talk about whether you think there should be a system in place to keep weapons out of the hands of the wrong people.
JK: Well, there's actually nothing to argue, it's not even something that needs to be expanded on. It's in the United States Constitution, which is the supreme law of the land, it's the right of the American people to keep in bear arms shall not be infringed, and that means exactly that, because when we talk about these gun laws, whatever they may be , they don't effect the law abiding, they don't affect you and I, actually they do affect you and I, we are the ones who then have less access of protection. The criminals out there, they don't care about the money, they don't care about the newest gun law, they don't care about any of those things. So the 2nd Amendment I'm a big believer in, and I stand behind it.
JW: Okay, let's talk about politics. All of the candidates, everyone, said you would work to bridge the cap between the two political sides work together to get things done and avoid gridlock. But we all know when you get in these scenarios and you get to Washington , how do you really specifically set out to try and bridge that gap? I want to know what's in your mind, the mindset, the approach, the tactics that you would take to try to win over someone on the over side to your side.
JK: That's a great question, and because you're right everybody says that when they run for office "bi-partisan" is the word that's thrown around very often, but the truth is, right now the two parties have major differences, one party feels one way, another party feels another. The only way you'll be able to work with someone else when you get to Washington, is when you see the person first, before you see the party. Are they striving for jobs, does this person want lower gas prices? Do they want more jobs. I do believe there are plenty of politicians in Washington right now and I'll name some of them, who don't really want that. They may say they want it but they don't their actions don't say they do. I will work with anybody from any party, Republican, Democrat, Independent, the Green Party. If they want to work to create jobs in this nations, get the government out of the way so we can reduce gas prices, then that's someone I want to work. with They don't have to have an R by their name.
JW: Let's talk about the power of persuasion and the level of persuasion that comes your way when you are representing a district from people who have there special interest and I know there have been steps to avoid some of these things and keep them from happening, but there's no doubt that people out there have projects that they would like to see you get something done for whether it's to create a grant, or to get some kind of moneys approved for special projects. Say I come to you and I'm really trying to convince you that we need to build a freeway a loop around Tucson, what do you tell me, if I'm at your desk and I'm begging you to support my cause in this effort, how do you turn somebody away or say hey I'm on your side?
JK: First of all, a question we never seem to ask ourselves anymore, it doesn't matter who's doing the asking, it is in the United States Constitution. Is it allowable by law? If it's not allowable by law, then the conversation doesn't really have to begin. You know we have those perceptions of Washington, and it justified somewhat that the there all bad that they all caved this special interest or that special interest, they're all against us, and it's actually the most pleasant surprise I've had running for office, you end up meeting so many of these people and yes they are plenty of bad ones, I'm not going to sit here and tell you there not. There are also lots of good ones that are just there to do the right thing. You want to know who influences me, my wife, Aubrey Kelly, that's who influences me, I talk to my family, my friends, I don't have all these lobbyist friends, I am not a politician , I am an United States Marine and a businessman. I'm not going back there for favors for anybody I'm going back there because southern Arizona needs jobs and lower gas prices. Anybody that wants to come into my office and put a proposal down to create jobs then I'll listen.
Waddell: We have something from one of our viewers again. This is Joe Evano: "Recently you accepted the endorsement of the Americans for Legal Immigration group. Senator John McCain and the Anti-Defamation League have denounced --
Ellinwood: (campaign spokesman, off camera, interrupting): I want to stop you.
Waddell: Oh --
Ellinwood: That's false.
Waddell: OK --
Ellinwood: He did not accept recently.
Waddell: This is --
Ellinwood (interrupting): No. It's false. That was from 2010. So would you please read some correct answers?
Waddell: Well, this is not an 'answer.' This is something --
Ellinwood (interrupting): That was not recent.
Waddell: Hang on just one second. Do you want to come into the shot --
Kelly: (holding up his hand): John.
Waddell: Because this is all --
Kelly (to Ellinwood): It's all right. It's all right.
Waddell (to Ellinwood, still off camera): If you want to come in and join the conversation, that's fine.
Kelly (holds up his hand a second time): John.
Waddell (to Ellinwood): This is from a viewer. (To Kelly). So I will let you address this.
Kelly: You can ask it again.
Waddell: I will ask the question and you can address it how you choose. So Joe Evano says, recently you accepted the endorsements of the Americans for Legal Immigrations group -- he's saying this was in 2010 -- Senator John McCain and the Anti-Defamation League have denounced the group for being backed by white supremacists, neo-Nazis and anti-Semites. Why then did you accept that endorsement? This is from Joe Evano.
Kelly: It was in 2010. This election is about jobs, and the economy, and lower gas prices. Frankly it's completely out of bounds.
Waddell: Ok. Thank you for your response on that.
JW: In 2010, the campaign between you and Congresswoman Gabby Giffords, was close, and I know that you're very proud of the showing you had, got a little ugly at times as campaigns do. Do you believe that this campaign can stay focused and civil and issued-based and how would you respond to personal attacks if they came your way?
JK: Our campaign will remain 100% focused on issues and 100% honest of the problems we are facing as a nation and the plan we have to solve those problems.
JW: OK, and we just have one more question for you. Not really a question, just give you a chance to say anything you like to say to the voters and the Congressional District 8.
JK: Sure I'd like to let everybody know, we're not done yet as a country, I know there's a lot of fear out there right now, there's a lot of hesitation, and yes, there's plenty out there that looks scary. But we still have a lot of opportunity, we still have an American people that are ready to take their country back again, and I absolutely do believe not only now in June, not in November, but moving forward we are going to take our country back and we're going to create jobs, and lower gas prices, and do all the things we talked about, we're going to smile about America again really soon and I believe it.
JW: All right, that's going to wrap up this segment of our Project Red, White, and Blue coverage. Jesse Kelly, thanks for your time.
JK: Thank you.