One thing that’s clear about the congressional campaign of Greenwich resident Carl Higbie is that he does not aim to be the typical politician.
The former Navy SEAL from Greenwich, who served two tours of duty in Iraq, is challenging U.S. Rep. Jim Himes and is looking not just to defeat the incumbent Democrat in November but also come up against the bosses inside the Connecticut Republican Party as he seeks the nomination against GOP front-runner Dan Debicella of Shelton.
With that in mind, Higbie is headed to next month’s state Republican convention to lay the groundwork for what he believes will be a successful primary campaign against Debicella in August.
In a recent interview carried live on HANRadio.com, he didn’t hold back.
‘No room for gray’
“I come from a background of ‘what you see is what you get,’” Higbie said. “I was a soldier. I look my enemies in the eyes. Everything was black and white because there was no room for gray. There was no room for ‘Well, what if…’ and pandering.
“A well-executed bad plan was always better than a poorly-executed great plan where I came from,” he continued. “This election is going to be about that. I came in a little bit later than [Himes and Debicella] but I got the ball rolling very quickly and got a lot of people behind me.”
Will be direct with his positions
Higbie said he rejects the idea that a “black and white” view doesn’t fit with politics where he would have to represent a wide and diverse constituency in the Fourth Congressional District as well as work in Washington, D.C., where deals and compromises are considered part of the terrain.
He said it’s politicians have made government “a gray area” to make sure people don’t know what they’re really up to.
The Fourth Congressional District includes most of Fairfield County, including much of Shelton.
Himes, a three-term Democrat from Greenwich, is seeking re-election this year.
Seeking ‘fiscal sanity’
His campaign is built around several ideas, the first of which he calls the need for “fiscal sanity.” Higbie is calling for reducing the corporate tax rate to 0% and, to offset that cost, a massive reform of welfare spending.
He said care should be taken with Social Security and Medicare because they’ve been paid into, but that instead of spending so much on welfare programs that money can be used for grant programs to start small businesses, creating jobs in the process; or the money could be used on education and job training.
Higbie also called for slashing the federal government in half — including military spending, because the current manpower isn’t needed, he said.
By dropping the corporate tax rate to zero, Higbie said companies that have shipped jobs to other countries will come back to America, creating new jobs here for people who are no longer receiving welfare.
“We want everyone to be part of society and not just part of the government dole,” Higbie said. “This money that was once just used for a check can now go to education and jobs programs. Ultimately we’re going to get completely off this.”
GOP encourages ‘upward mobility’
Higbie continued, “The Democrats for so long have said, ‘Hey, we need unemployment benefits. We need welfare. We need checks for these people,’ but the fact of the matter is the Democratic Party and the liberal left agenda has tried to essentially enslave the lower middle class by saying ‘You need the government. You need us and we’re going to keep giving and giving.’
“Sure it sounds appealing but the bottom line is the Republican Party is the party that wants the upward mobility,” he said.
After his two tours in Iraq, Higbie said he has seen first hand the need for more spending on veterans to ensure they get the physical and mental health help they need upon returning home — and help getting a job or starting a business of their own.
Wants to repeal Obamacare
Higbie also wants to repeal the Affordable Care Act, better known as Obamacare. While the White House has trumpeted 8 million sign-ups for health care under the law,
Higbie says he doubts that numbers are accurate, noting not enough information was released about who has paid for their healthcare. And he also notes past alleged lies about Obamacare by the government.
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This is the second in a HANRadio.com series, Connecticut Candidates 2014, where state and local candidates sit down with Hersam Acorn Radio. You can listen to an archive of the interview at HANRadio.com or SheltonHerald.com.
He grants that there were likely “good intentions” behind the law but claims it has caused 7 million people to be dropped from their plans and calls it a failure, basing much of that on his own wife’s experience as a nurse and the uncertainty it has created in the healthcare industry and in the economy, while causing premiums to go up.
Wants other healthcare reforms
Instead of the current law, Higbie said he would go back to the old system, but with changes such as allowing for more competition between states for insurance rates and a curb on malpractice suits to try and curb costs.
Higbie said he would “hold Jim Himes” feet to the fire on this during the campaign and make it a major issue of debate. “The old system wasn’t that broken,” Higbie said. “A lot of people disagree with me on that but I think a lot of people are wrong.”
Downplays social issues
One of the tent poles of Higbie’s campaign is that he does not want to get bogged down in the social issues that so many politicians focus on. He said that’s not nearly as important to people as a focus on reducing the federal debt and creating jobs.
That means, while he is personally pro life, he said don’t expect to see him championing new legislation on abortions.
“These are social issues, not a legislative matter,” Higbie said. “I might be pro life but the bottom line is that this is not a legislative matter. I’m not going to make legislation saying a woman can’t have an abortion but I’m also not going to allocate dollars to pay for one. If you want to do it, you go do it. I’m done arguing about it.
“The world is changing,” he said. “If people want to do it, that’s their opinion. It’s not a congressman’s job to tell a woman what she can and can’t do with her body.”
‘Pursuit of happiness’
On another social topic, Higbie said that while he is “not a big fan of the gay ideology,” which is something he discusses in his book “Battle on the Home Front: A Navy SEAL’s Mission to Save the American Dream,” he supports civil unions and even said in the interview that he could extend that to gay marriage.
“It’s something I personally find morally upsetting, but if they want to do that is totally their prerogative,” Higbie said. “I believe they have the right to a civil union because I believe that is the pursuit of happiness for some people.
“If you want it, fine, and we can let the church decide on the marriage thing, it’s not a legislative matter,” he said. “It does not need to be brought up in Congress.”
Challenging the establishment
Higbie said he wants people to know exactly where he stands on the issues so there could never be any doubt or confusion.
“That’s how politics needs to be,” Higbie said. “People have become accepting of this ridiculousness of not answering the question and beating around the bush. That shouldn’t be acceptable anymore.”
And, if elected, don’t expect Higbie to soften his stances either. He said that in 2010, when Debicella first challenged Himes, 18,000 Republicans didn’t vote and Debicella lost by less than 10,000 votes. By giving Republicans more reason to come out and vote by rejecting the middle, he said there can be success.
‘I’m tired of moderating’
“I fight a lot of the establishment Republicans here,” Higbie said. “They don’t really care for me that much and they’re always saying you have to moderate, moderate, moderate. I’m tired of moderating. Look where it’s gotten us. President Romney? President McCain?
“They always say you need to compromise but I’m done compromising,” he said. “Some things need compromise and I’ve done that but I’m not going to compromise on things that compromise my country.”
Though they are of different parties, Himes and his predecessor, Republican Christopher Shays, both have taken pains in their campaigns to run as moderates eager to work with the opposite side in Washington. But Higbie rejects that.
“I’m fighting for a better America, I’m not fighting based on party policies,” Higbie said. “I’m tired of the parties. This is about the people you put into office, not the parties.”
A summer primary for Republicans?
Debicella is the front-runner in the race and his campaign recently announced it has secured the public endorsement of 51% of the delegates, essentially sewing up the convention’s nomination.
Higbie said he’s not surprised by that, and his eye is on a primary in August. So he will be going to the May convention looking to get 15% to 30% support to push his campaign forward.
If a candidate receives 15% of the delegates, he automatically qualifies for the August primary. Without 15% of the delegates, he would need to petition his way onto the primary ballot.
A third candidate also is seeking the Republican nomination in the race — Dr. Joseph Bentivegna, an ophthalmologist from Fairfield.
Wants to ‘shake things up’
“I think I am the strongest candidate to go in there and shake things up,” Higbie said. “Himes does not want to debate me. I’m not the standard politician — I’m the soldier. I’ll say how it is and if he dances around the question, I’ll say he’s doing that. I don’t see Dan Debicella bringing it to him like that.”
Higbie trumpets his donations of small amounts like $1 or $5 or $20 because he said he shows that his message is resonating with the average voter.
But now, with what he says is momentum inside his campaign, Higbie is looking for the kind of donations that come with bigger checks, the kind of funding he will need to take this primary through August where, with elections classically showing low turnouts, anything can happen.
The complete interview with Carl Higbie is at HANradio.com. For more information on his campaign, go to CarlHigbie.com.
This article’s author, Ken Borsuk, is editor of the Greenwich Post, another Hersam Acorn p8ublication.