I got a chance to sit down last week with Arlington’s Amit Singh, who is running for the GOP nomination in the 8th Congressional District race. He’ll be vying with Mark Ellmore for the votes of 8th district Republicans on June 10th. The winner of that race will face long time incumbent Rep. Jim Moran (D) this fall.
I’ll be posting this interview in multiple parts, and then follow up with some of my own analysis. As I’ve noted earlier, I don’t think that Singh’s the typical Republican candidate that we’ve come to expect, and I hope readers will find this interesting.
(This interview took place in the Hard Times Café in Clarendon on March 18. I did summarize and edit for length and clarity, tho’ I have attempted to use full quotes where possible.)
MB: So this is not a good time for Republicans in general, nevermind in the 8th District. Why now? And why as a Republican?
Amit Singh: “I didn’t feel like I had a choice – I was compelled. I’ve been really frustrated at what’s been going on in the US for a while now. I had this unsettling feeling that the country was just going in the wrong direction.”
Mr. Singh relayed stories about his military friends and colleagues, and how their lives have been upended by the Iraq War. Once the presidential race on the Republican side was wrapped up (Singh had been an active volunteer for Ron Paul), he focused his attention on the local Congressional race, looking for someone to support – but was “less than inspired” by the existing candidates. That unsettled feeling “continued to boil”, eventually leading him to make what he characterized as “not an easy decision” – the decision to present and commit himself as a candidate.
Why are you a Republican?
“I think the core Republican values are what I agree with. The Republican Party today has gotten away from their base, and what made them successful in the past. Now they’re relying on big government solutions to solve the problems of today, which, I think, has exacerbated the problem. You know, growing up, the Republicans were about fiscal responsibility, smaller government, and you know, that’s the party I remember and affiliate myself with.”
[ . . . ]
“The Republican Party is fractured. And there’s a contingent that is fiscally responsible and believes in limited government, and that’s why I am still running as a Republican.”
Were you influenced by the politics of your hometown?
“Yes. [Colonial Heights] was a very conservative city, a great place to grow up. And, I don’t know if there were any Democrats there when I was growing up [laughs].” He described a disconnect between the way a number of his Democratic friends view the Republican party and the one he grew up with – “I guess I saw the good side of conservatives,” adding that he has a “very fond view of Republicans and conservatives.”
The Republican Primary
Mark Ellmore has a record of raising primary dollars and has some name recognition – how will you beat him?
Singh responded by pointing out that Mark Ellmore outraised his primary opponent last time, but lost badly, “We’ve already raised more than Ellmore raised in his last primary [MB: the Singh campaign indicated that it had approximately $20k cash on hand as of March 18, as compared to the $17.9k that Ellmore raised for his ultimately unsuccessful 2006 primary race. As of the date of posting this, Singh appears to have pushed that figure up past $23k]. From a money perspective, there’s not an issue.”
Singh also highlighted the difference between the “bumper sticker politics” on Ellmore’s site to the “dissertations” on his own. “It goes to the level of understanding what the issues are, and actual solutions to some of them.” He’s been working the local Republican circuit to raise his recognition (see some of his appearances here on YouTube), and sounds pleased with the results, saying that “It’s not a one man race anymore.”
In other coverage of your campaign, you’ve been described as a “Ron Paul Republican” – what would you call yourself?
“My personal definition is somebody who believes in limited government, fiscal responsibility, and personal freedoms. No two people are ever going to agree on everything, it’s just that he believes in those things and so do I.”
On the principle of limited government – “Most of our problems are not because we don’t have enough government involvement, [it’s that] we have *too* much government involvement.”
On the importance of personal freedoms – “I travel all over the world, and people want to be like Americans. It’s not because of our money, it’s because we can wear what we want, listen to what we want, that’s . . . people love the American culture. And Americans themselves don’t understand that, which is kind of sad to me.”
On fiscal responsibility – “We can’t do anything if we’re broke – we can’t protect the borders, we can’t educate our kids, we can’t provide any services at all.”
Does being a “Ron Paul Republican” create a burden for you in the primary? You’re running on getting out of Iraq, which isn’t exactly a popular GOP campaign approach.
“Attitudes are changing. Just last week, Iraq showed that they have a huge budget surplus because of the oil revenue that we helped them get. We’re in a budget deficit, yet we’re paying for [all of the reconstruction].”
[ . . . ]
“We’ve won the war. Our soldiers have done everything we asked them to do. They’ve brought Saddam to justice; they’ve killed his two tyrannical sons. We should be bringing [the soldiers] back and having victory parades and treating them like heroes[,] instead of having them in “Operation Babysit.” We’ve won the war. It’s over, and it’s time to bring them back.”
One of my regular reads – Sepia Mutiny – recently noted your campaign launch.
[Laughs] “I was recently familiarized with that”
As a Desi oriented site, and thanks to George Allen, the Macaca and “welcome to the real America” jokes were immediate. It’s easy to dismiss that as lazy humor, but it does express a real concern about the Virginia Republican Party’s commitment to *all* Americans, and not just the ones that look and sound like George Allen. The party rallied around him after those remarks. That is something that may make those who would otherwise find that their interests would be served by the Republican party think twice about voting Republican. How do you respond to that concern?
“Well, I didn’t vote for George Allen, if that’s what you’re asking. [ . . . ] As far as his comments were concerned, he made them, I wasn’t offended by those comments, and what he messed up on was that he just wasn’t honest about what he said. He could have dealt with that situation so much better. I think he handled it poorly, more than anything. As far as the Republican Party rallying around him, that’s what the party does. They’re trying to support each other.
It’s kinda like having that embarrassing uncle. And even though they’re embarrassing, sometimes you have to rally around them. I think George Allen made a mistake, he didn’t handle it well, and the Republican party for better or worse, had to rally around him. But I think what you saw was that he did lose a lot of Republican support – people did not want to be associated with him.” What a lot of people don’t realize is that he lost more support than he gained. I mean, this was a guy who was supposed to be the next President, and he didn’t even win his own race.”
On being the subject of discussion online (at Sepia Mutiny and elsewhere) – “I figured that this is going to be a part of my life now, and people are going to say things about me even though they don’t know me, and the best thing for me to do is to let it be. I’m not going to get into a tit for tat on a blog. If they want to call me or email me, that’s a different story – we can have a reasonable discussion.”
Part II – covering Singh’s views on Federal spending, the Tyson tunnel, and energy solutions –
will be up soon is available here. In the meantime, you can learn more about the candidate at his website.