The Missouri Times: Why Congress?
Steelman: Well, it’s because I am driven to try and change the direction our country is headed. Our children’s futures depend on it. You know, I ran for U.S. Senate, with the same principles that I’m running for U.S. Congress. I want to see a balanced budget. I want to see us get our fiscal house in order. I want to reduce the size of government, reduce regulations. Our freedom is threatened with every new law and every new regulation and every new tax. I know what needs to be done, but it doesn’t seem like we have the people in Washington [D.C.] with the backbone to do it.
TMT: At the forums you sometimes seem to give the most conservative answers. Can you walk us through how you came to be a conservative and when it really developed for you?
Steelman: My dad was a Goldwater republican. My first memory is wearing a Goldwater hat when I was five years old in 1964. Where I grew up, in Jefferson City, my dad started a not-for-profit conservative bookstore. He was an attorney but it was important to him to help educate people about conservative ideas. He offered conservative books by William F. Buckley, Russell Kirk, Milton Friedman and Goldwater- to name a few great conservative thinkers. Basically, I was raised on the National Review. We had massive discussions around the kitchen table about big issues, whatever was going on in the world. I’ve always been involved and I was a conservative because it made sense to me. In 1976, at 18, I was an alternate delegate to the state convention for [Ronald] Reagan. In 1976, my dad was on the credentials committee where the big fight took place to get the Reagan delegates credentialed. In
In 1980, I organized some college girlfriends to drive to Iowa to volunteer at the Iowa caucuses for Ronald Reagan, and that’s when I really caught the bug.
TMT: Who are some people in Congress you respect or you might model yourself after?
Steelman: I’m looking for people who will stand strong on conservative principles but who will also offer solutions to the problems, and be proactive, instead of reactive, about the problems. A lot of republicans in Washington [D.C.] today just react, and so they don’t come out with solutions. People like Senator Rubio. Jim DeMint was someone I really admired; Paul Ryan is willing to put a solution out there and talk about it. Those are the kinds of people I’d want to associate with and learn from.
TMT: We notice you didn’t mention [Congresswoman] Jo Ann Emerson. What are some things she’s done you’ve agreed with or supported?
Steelman: I think [Congresswoman Emerson] did an excellent job of taking care of the district and solving constituent problems. I observed she was always there for people when they needed help in dealing with government. She worked to get things done, and it’s not always pretty. Now, I don’t agree with some of her votes.
I don’t agree with her view on earmarks. She did vote for the bailout, I would not have voted for the bailout and I wouldn’t have voted for Cash 4 Clunkers.
TMT: Sure. What do you do for fun, when you aren’t working?
Steelman: I run. I’m running in a half-marathon in April and I love to read and ski.
TMT: A lot of people tie you in with [Representative] Jason Smith because of your proximity, geographically. Why would you be a better choice than Jason Smith?
Steelman: I like Jason; he’s a good friend of mine. In this situation, when the issues are so critical and the stakes are so high, I think it’s important to send a person whose been tested and whose willing to stand strong despite the political consequences – stand strong on conservative principles.
There’s a time to pick your battles; I recognize that. But there’s also a time when you have to be unafraid to say, “NO, it’s too much spending, we need to balance the budget, we need to get things done.” And the pressure that is going to be felt by anyone who goes to Washington to” go and get along” is going to be overwhelming. I am not afraid to stand up to the status quo and fight for what’s right based on conservative principles. I have a strong record to prove it: stopping taxpayer funding for a stadium; fighting for property rights; reducing sand and gravel regulations; starting the first terror free fund in the country; increasing transparency in government; fighting corruption by calling out legislators who had conflicts of interest; and fighting earmarks.
TMT: You’ve run a lot recently. What do you say someone on the committee who says the district might have “Steelman Fatigue”? How do you reach out to those people?
Steelman: Persistence is important in politics. If you’re going to get things done, you have to keep trying and keep fighting. I have people say to me, “As one person, how do you make a difference?” I think one person can make a difference. I believe that, strongly. The way to do that is you try, and try and try again. Because, that’s the way you get things done. For example, earmarks, I took a stand in 2008 and got highly criticized by every Republican Congressperson in our state. They sent a letter at the time to the press publically condemning me for my position against earmarks. But I stood strong. Now there is a moratorium on earmarks because the pressure became overwhelming for Congress to make changes. Things do change, if you can start standing up and showing that there is a better way to do it.
TMT: Can you win a primary in 2014?
TMT: Being from Rolla, it’s kind of in the corner of the district, would that impede you at all?
Steelman: No. I don’t think so at all.
TMT: Tell me something people don’t know about you.
Steelman: Boy, there’s a lot that is known about me. Well, I used to love to jump off cliffs, repel off cliffs.
TMT: Do you have a base of support of committee members regionally, or are you more spread out?
Steelman: I think those people are spread around the district, that’s what I have found. There’s a real desire to make sure that we send somebody that is willing to stand up and fight for conservative principles.
TMT: If you’re not chosen, is there a candidate you’d support at the meeting?
Steelman: I’ll support whoever is selected.
TMT: If there are two or three left, is there somebody that you’d like to see have the job if you’re not successful?
Steelman: I think some would be better than others.