The Missouri Times: So, why are you running?
Smith: I’ve said this many times, I’m tired of seeing the politicians in Washington D.C. kick the can down the road. They’re not genuinely addressing and solving the problems that are facing our country. They haven’t balanced the budget, they haven’t even written a budget, and it’s been years since we’ve had a budget. They’ve raised the debt limit more than 70 times since 1962. I’ve been in the Missouri House for seven years and I’ve fought for the items that we need to do in Washington D.C. House Bill 1135, which became law last year, put a systematic review process in place for all regulations and rules. At that time, there were 6,281 different rules on the state level. At the federal level there are over 170,000 pages of rules We need a moratorium on rules. As conservatives, as republicans, we talk about a smaller and more efficient government; the rulemaking process is part of it. We balance the budget every year in the state of Missouri, and we need to do it in D.C. Let’s look at tax decreases, I co-sponsored the social security tax cut. We need to look at the tax structure on the federal level to make it fair and simpler. You have to hire someone to understand it, and that’s ridiculous.
Entitlement reform. We’ve done it here. I’m working on a bill here to reform the welfare structure. President Obama signed an executive order removing the welfare requirements of the 90’s.
TMT: Speaking of the President, is there something he’s done that you agree with?
Smith: The only thing I can say I agree with would have been when he was a junior senator. When he was, he fought against raising the debt limit, and that was before he was President. And now, what is he doing? He’s fighting to increase it.
TMT: Nobody running [in the 8th] is a fan of the President. 20 years from now, what’s going to be the thing you think is as bad as advertised today? Is there anything that will turn out as bad as today’s conservatives have advertised them?
Smith: The way he increased the national debt. We went from 10 to 16 trillion in 4 years. That’s unbelievable. We have one of the largest national debts in his. He pushes to make people more dependent on government, which just makes it grow. If we don’t change that, it’s going to change how we’ve always approached the government and our way of life
TMT: Walk us through how you became a conservative. How did you come to that ideology?
Smith: My parents were married over 50 years. My father was a minister. My mom and dad worked in an auto shop. My dad ran it and my mom worked in it. We had to work for ourselves. We’ve experienced what it takes to survive. My mother took a job just for the healthcare for our family. I’ve been raised knowing how government can affect you. My parents had the same problems with small businesses that anyone else had, and I saw firsthand how hard they worked and how hard we had to work when things were rough. Things aren’t easy. The family farm I own, it still has no running water on it today. My grandfather lived there until the late 90’s and he never had running water. That’s who I come from. It’s my background. I know how it’s been difficult. I have a real-estate development business and my real-estate license. I’m a licensed attorney. I’m a licensed insurance agent. I don’t do insurance, but I wanted to take the test. I think the more education we get, the more we know about, the better we do. I won’t do any job halfway. I’m the only one in this race that has run in a special election. When I was elected in 2005, it was a special election. I wasn’t the parties first, second or third choice. I was the fourth choice, because they didn’t think a 25-year old lawyer from Salem could hold a seat that hasn’t been held by a republican in 22 years. I decided that was what I was going to do. A lot of those folks that pushed me not to run, I won them over, and I respect them greatly. One of them called me yesterday, and said “wow, I can’t believe you were the person that I said shouldn’t run for state rep, and that the person I said shouldn’t run is now one of those top couple contenders for congress.” It all boils down to what I learned from my parents: you work hard at what you do, and you win it.
TMT: Who is someone in Congress that you’d like to pattern yourself after?
Smith: You want be your own man. I believe [Senator] Marco Rubio is someone who is a fresh person in our party. I don’t always agree with him, but he does bring something new to the party. In the House, I like the background of [Congressman] Justin Amash. He’s a young guy, 32, same age as me, he’s a congressmen from Michigan. On every vote he takes, he writes a blog about why he voted the way he did and puts it on his website. He was kicked off the budget committee, he’s a strong conservative. Congressmen Langford, he’s new, he’s great.
TMT: What were some things during both the Emerson’s time that you were supportive of?
Smith: [Congresswoman Jo Ann Emerson] was a strong advocate for our 2nd Amendment rights. Her constituents services were second to none in the district. When OSHA or the Army Corps came in, she was the first to come out swinging. The Sierra Club ranked her in the Top 10 as their most hated individuals. I want to be on that list. She voted against the stimulus bills, Obamacare, Cap and Trade. We disagree on embryonic stem cell research. To still be endorsed by Missouri Right to Life after 7 years, I think that speaks volume.
Where we disagree, the bailouts, cash for clunkers, things like that. I respect [Congresswoman] Jo Ann Emerson, but we don’t agree on everything. So, I just want to clarify, you know, that we have some things that she has done that I firmly support, but in other areas we have disagreement.
TMT: Does not supporting stem cell research make someone pro life?
Smith: That’s something everyone has to decide for him or herself. I’m extremely pro life.
TMT: You’ve been tabbed as working harder than anyone. Was that a deliberate strategy?
Smith: I had a friend from my special election race and he said, “Jason, whatever you do, do more than your opponents do.” Whether that is knocking on doors or raising money or attending events, whatever I do, you know I want to do it better and do more than my opponents and if you do that, you can win. This election, I’ve carried out that strategy. I hit the ground running and I try to beat anyone else in any aspects I could. So I call committee members first and try to get to see them first. Contact them more than anyone else. Trying to be the best at every forum, I’m trying. Whoever wins the nomination has to bring everyone together. We have the liberty minded, the establishment republicans, the regular republics and the tea party.
TMT: Where do you draw your support?
Smith: You know, I draw from all of them. That’s what it means to be a consensus builder. You can’t throw one group aside. We don’t always agree, but we can all work together.
TMT: What’s the difference between you and Todd Richardson?
Smith: Todd’s a good guy. I have more experience when it comes to policy. I believe out of everyone in this race, that I have the strongest passion for agriculture. This is an agriculture district. I’ve been raised around it. I understand the attacks the animals rights activists and environmentalists are doing and how they affect our way of life. Whether it’s through the rulemaking process or through the law. No one else has that experience. I have a proven record of things that I fought for in Jefferson city that we need in DC.
The way welfare programs are set up, it incentivizes people to stay on them. People working 18 hours at McDonalds get the full benefit, but if they work 19 hours, they lose them. We need to change that. That’s something I think anybody can agree, we just need to communicate it. Conservatism should be based on policies and ideas, not who can scream the loudest. And that’s an area we have really had problems in.
TMT: What do you think about immigration? Some people say we should send people back, is that reasonable, is that something you would support?
Smith: We need to enforce the laws on the books. Secure our boarders.
TMT: What about people who are here already?
Smith: If they are illegal, they are illegal.
TMT: They should go back?
Smith: We have laws on the books, let’s enforce the laws on the books. If they are breaking the laws, the laws should be enforced.
TMT: What would be the ramifications of that?
Smith: It’s hard to know, there’s no way of knowing how many there are. We should never reward anyone for breaking the law.
TMT: Did you know about [Congresswoman] Jo Ann Emerson’s resignation in advance?
Smith: For years, we always thought, “Is there her last time?” Did I know absolutely? No.
TMT: Can Jason Smith, from Salem, win the district if an independent runs, and can he win in a primary in 2014?
Smith: Absolutely. Look at the primary votes. For 7 years I’ve covered the media market for Phelps, Crawford and Dent County. If you just use the primary votes that come up in those county, that’s 10,000 votes. My base is large. Winning those counties, or looking at Texas county, if that’s my base, that can sustain you even if you don’t do well in Cape county. If you don’t think I can contend in a primary, you just haven’t looked at the numbers.
TMT: What’s something that people might not know about you?
Smith: It seems like your life is an open book. But I think most people don’t know my upbringing. Most people don’t know where I came from. I’ve built myself, and when I set my mind to something, I’ve succeeded. I graduated high school at 17. I graduated from the University of Missouri at Columbia at 20 with two bachelor’s degrees, one in Business administration and one in agricultural economics. I was the youngest person in my law class at age 20. All my friends in law school would go to bars. I wasn’t old enough to go. I work, and I put everything into it. I come from a family that I was the first one in my generation to graduate college. My parents couldn’t afford to pay my way. Still paying those student loans. The way they paid for it, they worked around the farm with what I created. Plus the 2-3 jobs I had. Some semesters I had 27 credit hours and 2 part time jobs. I know what hard work is. Whatever you want, you just do more and more and get it done. You build coalitions of relationships. If I get elected, I’ll make sure everyone knows southern and southeast Missouri, and I’ll make sure we’re well represented.