One of the hottest races in August features two Republicans going toe to toe in Michigan’s 7th District. The incumbent, establishment candidate Joe Schwarz, is facing off against conservative challenger Tim Walberg in a Republican primary that will be decided next week, on August 8th. Because there is no serious Democratic challenger in the district, the winner of the primary will be going to Congress.
Although Walberg tells me his internal polling has him up, 41-34 over Schwarz, this is an open primary. That means Democrats are allowed to vote and they’re expected to heavily favor Schwarz. So, not only does Walberg have to overcome a candidate with all the advantages of incumbency, he has to defeat his democratic allies as well.
Can he pull it off? We won’t know for sure until next week. However, after you read this edited transcript of an interview that I did with Tim on Monday, it’ll be hard to blame you for rooting him on to victory.
Now, I understand that in 2004, Joe Schwarz managed to get elected to Congress with just 28% of the vote. Tell us how that happened.
Tim Walberg: Well, it was the primaries in 2004 and it was an open seat…It ended up that Joe Schwarz (was running) and five other individuals got in as well — who were pro-life and conservative…So, there were five of us conservative pro-lifers who split up the vote five ways and (Joe won with) 28%. That was then, this is now. This time there are just two of us. It’s Tim Walberg and Joe Schwarz, conservative and liberal. We do have a clear contrast..and we don’t have that split potential.
I heard that you once made a pledge never to vote for a tax increase and kept it. Tell us a little bit about that?
Walberg: …I spent 16 years in the Michigan House of Representatives and signed on to the no new tax pledge numerous times. …For 16 years, I never voted for a tax increase and that’s a badge of pride….I took that pledge and I’m taking it again…this time…saying that I will not vote for any new tax increase. That’s not (a pledge) I’m worried about keeping. …The issue now is how do we reduce the spending?
In 16 years in the State House, I not only voted against any tax increase, I also either voted for, sponsored, or co-sponsored 30 tax cuts during that period of time. …I also worked…to take the pork barrel spending out of our Michigan budget. I offered a pork barrel list every year (so) that…my constituents could read about spending for sex change operations for prisoners and other programs like that and…they gave me a lot of support to say, "no," to spending. I’d like to do the same thing in Washington.
Do you think the Schwarz campaign has been honest during this campaign?
Walberg: (Laughs) I guess I’d have to ask you to be more specific. Honest about my record or about their record?
Either — or. Do you think they’ve told the voters the truth about his record. Do you think they’re telling the truth about your record?
Walberg: Well, I don’t think they’re telling the whole truth; that’s for sure. When they talk about things like his being a fiscal conservative, yet no one has explained why he voted for significant pork barrel…items. When I debated him last week, …he said, quote, "I don’t have time to look for all that pork barrel stuff." …He also said taxpayers aren’t interested in that spending. Well, I beg to differ. I think they are.
…I think he has been unclear, at the very least, with his record…and he says, "I don’t support amnesty," yet he supports the…plan (produced by the Senate) with John McCain and Ted Kennedy in the lead…
Let me ask you a related question, Tim. If a voter in your district came up to you and said, "Tim, give me 3 differences between you and Joe Schwarz that will convince me to vote for you," what would you tell him?
Walberg: I’m 100% pro-life. I believe in the 2nd Amendment and (think) that it’s for individuals, not for (our) collective society. I believe that government is too large, costs too much, spends too much, and has too much regulatory power in our lives. Those are the three key differences between Tim Walberg and Joe Schwarz.
Now, you’ve called yourself the "conservative choice" in the race. Why would you say Joe Schwart isn’t a conservative?
Walberg: Well, a guy who votes for pork barrel items…is generally not considered a conservative. One who supports amnesty for illegal aliens is not considered a conservative. …When you get down to the…definition of marriage being between one man and one woman and you’re the only Republican member of the House delegation from Michigan that opposes the President’s push for defining being between one man and one woman, that doesn’t (seem) conservative.
Then you need to look at his endorsers. Organizations like a bunch of unions, Planned Parenthood, Triangle Foundation, Pride Pac, Log Cabin Republicans — you don’t normally see those organizations endorsing Republicans unless they’re extremely liberal…So, in my mind, it’s not difficult to define Joe Schwarz as being liberal in contrast to my side of the ledger, where I am a conservative …having support from organizations like all of the right-to-life (groups), The Club for Growth, The National Taxpayers Unioin, Citizens Against Government Waste, …Gun Owners of America…I think it’s a clear distinction…
Now, what kind of message do you think it would send to Congress if you were able to knock off Joe Schwarz?
Walberg: It says that conservatives can win. It says that…if people have a chance to choose between one liberal and one conservative, they’ll choose a conservative every time. I think it also says that the Republicans need to understand that people are tired of (candidates) talking like Republicans, but acting like Democrats.
They’re tired of this administration, not because of George Bush’s policies, but because he has been unwilling to stand up and veto excessive spending that Reagan would have choked on. Reagan vetoed a highway funding bill because it had a 121 pork barrel items. He called that unconscionable. This (highway bill) has 6,000 pork barrel earmark items in it. Reagan would have had no trouble vetoing that.
When they look at a Congress that stands up for all the liberal causes and votes for minimum wage increases, led by Republicans — the people back in the conservative districts…are saying, "Enough is enough. You’re using us conservatives. You expect us to carry you through and get you into office, but then you walk away from us. We’re going to…take an incumbent, that was put into office as a Republican, but voted liberal, and we’re going to throw him out."
Thus far, it looks like it’s going to happen.
Note: Just to clarify, Tim Walberg has signed a Taxpayer Protection Pledge with the Americans for Tax Reform, but has not been endorsed by them.