Originally posted here.
During Arturo Alas’ congressional campaign HQ grand opening in Covina, California, I had the opportunity to chat with the Republican candidate running against Rep. Grace Napolitano (D-CA) to represent California’s 32nd congressional district. After a surprising top-two primary win, Art Alas hopes to win in November with his free market and constitution-loving message.
The incumbent, Grace Napolitano, has been in Congress since 1999, and many in her district appear to disagree with her on several important issues such as the U.S. role in the Syrian civil war. Could the residents of Covina be persuaded to give a Republican a try? The last Republican politician to have represented the district was Craig Hosmer, who left office in 1974.
United Liberty: What motivated you to run for Congress?
Art Alas: The very first thing that motivated me was taxes. I was younger, although I’d like to think I’m still young! But when I was much younger, in my early 20s, I didn’t pay attention to politics, was a very happy-go-lucky guy, so I decided to start a business. I started buying my own properties, fixing them, selling them, and then all of a sudden I got this huge tax bill. After one year, I had worked hard, I made a lot of money, I did well, and my reward was this very big tax bill at the end of the year. My reaction was: where did my money go? That motivated me to begin to investigate more. What is the government doing with my money? It’s like I opened a can of worms because the more I looked into it the less I liked it. I didn’t realize my government was doing so many things that I was not in agreement with. Once you see these things, you can’t just not want to do something about it.
UL: Your parents are immigrants. Have they ever felt that way? Did they ever feel let down with the taxation system here? Did you guys ever talk about politics?
Alas: No. I mean, we never really talked much about it [politics]. I remember that my mom, at a younger age, worked for a non-profit, and I remember that people she worked with were very liberal but I felt like I never really agreed with their point of view a lot of times, not because I was politically savvy, but because the position that they took always seemed to make other people victims. They always wanted to show this victimhood mentality, “oh, we must help them because they are victims,” they would say. In reality, I never felt like a victim, I feel like a person who can do whatever I want to do in life as long as I go after it. I feel like everybody should be treated with that sense of dignity.
UL: Very good. How about your campaign? You got a very positive response during the top two primary. Were you expecting that result? How excited were you?
Alas: I was very excited! We had been working pretty hard, this is my first campaign and I really didn’t know what to expect. But I was happy with what we got, based on what we spent and how much time and money was invested, I felt that the result was a good indicator of where we were at, and where we needed to be. Now, we have a more clear direction, we know where we need to go. I see everyone in my team stepping up the effort so, yes, the result was definitely positive.
UL: Being a Democrat, Representative Grace Napolitano is expected to have wide support in your district due to its Democratic alignment. Do you believe things have changed recently? Do voters now find it easier to pick their candidates based on issues rather than party preferences?
Alas: You know, I think so. I think just in general, as we look at voter registration records, the number one growing party right now is the independents. People are upset with democrats just as much as they are with republicans. Ultimately, whenever they get into a position of power, things don’t really change, we don’t see the difference. One is opposite of the other when the other is in power, but once they get there, they both work to grow the government. They both put more restrictions on our freedoms, and make it harder on us. When I go and talk to people, I can tell they are fed up, and I think they are looking for an alternative. They want someone to actually represent them. Right now, we have a lot of corporate representatives, lawmakers who represent crony capitalists, and Grace Napolitano is no exception.
UL: Agreed. Napolitano has recently voted to allow the federal government to provide weapons to Syrian rebels. Both Reps. Justin Amash and Thomas Massie voted against that amendment. What is your position when it comes to the U.S. involvement in the Middle East?
Alas: I definitely would have voted that down. To get involved in another country’s civil war should never really be our position. Again, it’s our government intervening in places they shouldn’t be. And the results? The same people that we back in Syria will soon be fighting us and are already fighting another countries in the Middle East. It’s just another result of misguided foreign policy. They just want to get involved in everybody’s business, just like they are trying to do here at home with all of us.
UL: How would you describe the relationship between your district’s residents and the National Security Agency’s intrusive surveillance programs? Do you feel that they don’t care about it, or are they worried about their privacy? Where do they stand?
Alas: When I first heard about it I had already researched it and already had a feeling that this was happening. When [Edward] Snowden came out with the revelations, I got a huge confirmation of my early suspicions and of what I had been talking about so when I go out to talk to the community and I mention the NSA [surveillance programs] because it’s at the forefront of my message, I see a lot of people who feel the same way. They feel like the government was abusing their power and they were using it against us, but I also feel that some never wanted to doubt the government. They will say “well, you know, let’s give them the benefit of the doubt, let’s assume that they are doing the best they can,” but I think that now, more than ever, we need to start paying a lot more attention and I think people are starting to because they were lied to, so now they feel betrayed. People don’t like to be lied to by people who are taking their money and mismanaging it. They are essentially spending your money on tools to spy on you.
UL: One of the latest blog posts on your site is about Covina installing cameras around downtown. Napolitano has recently voted in support of allowing the federal government to provide funds to states wanting to acquire new traffic cameras. I think that kind of position clashes with what you appeared to support in your post. Do you find her stance on this issue consistent with your district’s views on the federal government’s place when it comes to the privacy of citizens?
Alas: I don’t think it’s consistent with my district; it’s consistent with Grace. My district is more consistently aligned with my views on this subject. The more I talk to people, again, the more I see they value their privacy, and they feel that this is a complete violation of their privacy. Again, this is consistent with Grace’s view and her big government policies.
UL: So, I see that immigration is a major issue for you and your campaign. How do you define your approach to immigration reform? What do you think would be the first thing, policy wise, that you would do to help fix our immigration system?
Alas: I think we do have to secure the border. It’s not because of lack of resources [that the border is not secure] but a mismanagement issue. The Department of Homeland security gets $60 billion a year to manage the border, but they are obviously not doing their job. They have created all these agencies and, to me, they are much more focused on us, on legal residents and citizens as opposed to the border. So we need to have a secure system there but at the same time, we also need to look at our policies on how many visas we allow for people who want to come to this country, we also need to look at the amount of money and time that costs to come here legally.
UL: Do you think that working on changing the work visa system would be a good approach?
Alas: I think so. I think we need to look at an economic approach. We need to look at what are the needs of industries, and of agriculture. If there’s a willing employee and a willing employer, who are we, as the government, to get in the way of that? Let’s let them connect. Let’s provide a legal structure so that they can come here in a legal fashion so we don’t fuel this crisis.
UL: Cronyism. Let’s talk about that. The recent debate over the reauthorization of the Export-Import Bank has been striking a cord with the grassroots and the liberty movement. Many libertarian-conservatives and other consistent conservatives have voiced their opposition to the reauthorization of the bank. There are two bills that deal with this issue, one that was introduced by Republicans wants to diminish the Ex-Im Bank’s vital role but keep it going for a few more years but other Republicans want to put an end to it. The other bill introduced by a Democrat wants to expand the bank’s role. So here’s my question: what is your position?
Alas: I would end it. In my opinion, this is another way for politicians to sell power. It’s another tool for crony capitalists. They give loans to their friends, people that they know, donors, and so on. It’s just another tool that politicians use to benefit themselves and to maintain themselves in power and benefit their friends. So, in my opinion, we need to get rid of it. We can’t keep having these crony capitalist tendencies, we need to move back towards the free market. The free market doesn’t say to give loans to some people but not to others, the free market says to let the individual, or groups of individuals, try to make something of themselves and if they succeed, it’s because the market said that they offered a good product or service, not because the government lent them money and picked them over somebody else.
UL: After all, the government can’t speak for every single one of us, how do they know who to choose, right?
Alas: That’s exactly right.
UL: ObamaCare just got hit recently with a huge blow after a three-judge panel of the DC Circuit Court of Appeals claimed that millions of Americans in certain states would not be able to rely on subsidies due to the way the law is written. Because of this, millions of Americans who bought their insurance plans through the federal Exchange might see a major rise in their premiums. Plans were already more expensive to everyone, whether they were getting subsidies or not, after ObamaCare was enacted. Do you think the Obama administration acted insensibly to Americans and their true needs when it claimed it would make health care plans affordable by simply issuing mandate after mandate? Do you think the administration ever had the best interest of Americans in mind at all?
Alas: I think that if the intention was to reduce the cost of insurance, I don’t think so. For me it’s simple, when you centralize a service, you monopolize that industry, and then ultimately they end up controlling the prices. Prices go up when people have less control. What I would have loved to see from President Obama if he wanted to reform the health care [system] is a much more free market approach, where people could have bought insurance from across state lines, not from a few companies that are designated to you within your state, which was the system beforehand. I would have loved to have seen a system where people can buy policies across state lines and even internationally. Let’s open up the market because once the market is open, that’s when insurance companies would have to compete for your business. Before, and especially now, it’s like you don’t have a choice. These are your only options so they are going to offer you whatever they want to offer you. That’s when we begin to limit ourselves, when we should be giving ourselves more options. Seems like a logical solution.
UL: Common Core. Many different groups across the country have spoken out against it, especially parents and teachers. So, what is your stance on the Common Core State Standards initiative?
Alas: I am not for that. I am not for Common Core. Again, it’s [the government] trying to centralize a certain curriculum for the whole of America. Again, it’s those bureaucrats who think that they know more than everybody else and they can dictate and manipulate and plan other people’s lives. We are a nation of individuals, each one of us is special and we have different talents. What I would love to see is decentralization of education, I would love to see young people and families have opportunities to pursue different routes, and different ways. I would be in favor of a voucher system and let people make a decision on their own as to what type of education they would like to see for their kids and I think that, ultimately, nobody’s going to care more about the education of their kids than their parents.
UL: State rights. There’s an ongoing movement pushing states to simply stand up against federal laws or federal programs they do not agree with or do not want to comply with, such as the NSA surveillance programs, ObamaCare, drug policies, etc. Do you support that movement?
Alas: I fully support state rights because I feel that at the very minimum, with state rights, people have the opportunity to vote with their feet, at the worst case. But when the federal government takes on policy and they try to mandate everybody to be under this policy, people have nowhere to go. Where do U.S. citizens have to go? That’s why state rights are so important, because it gives people, again, options. If they don’t like a law, or policies in California, well, they can move to Nevada. They can choose other policies they can live under, and they have different options.
UL: It’s a free market of states!
Alas: It’s a free market system, it’s just about freedom at this point.
UL: Very good! That’s all I have for you today, thank you so much.
Alas: Thank you very much.