BY MICHON LINDSTROM KENTUCKY
FRANKFORT, Ky. — The primary election is on June 23, and Spectrum News 1’s political reporter Michon Lindstrom sat down with Thomas Massie who is facing a primary challenge in the Republican primary for the 4th Congressional District.
Q. I heard you saw the interview with your opponent Todd McMurtry and he really had several accusations against you one of those being that you’re an ineffective representative. I mean, what is your response, I’m sure you don’t agree with that?
A. No, I don’t agree with that at all and neither does the fourth district. As soon as I got to Congress four terms ago I sought out and got a position on the Transportation Committee, because so much of our economy in Northern Kentucky is dependent on transportation. And I am on the aviation subcommittee, the waterways subcommittee, and the roads and bridges subcommittee, literally the three most important subcommittees on the Transportation Committee. In fact, I just came from DC, where we marked up the transportation bill, but this is for all the roads and bridges in the United States. And so, I’ve focused on several things. One is the Cincinnati Northern Kentucky airport. I’ve got the CEO there and many of the board members on speed dial and anytime anything comes up where I think I can be effective for them in an aviation bill I call them immediately and we make sure to work that in. And then on the waterways subcommittee I’ve been really instrumental in getting conservatives to vote for infrastructure in Congress, so they credit me, the chairman credited me, with getting the sort of the tea party to vote for infrastructure. When it came time to fix our locks and dams and we have three locks and dams in the fourth congressional district. And then finally on the roads and bridges. We’re not allowed to earmark money anymore, they banned earmarks about two years before it came to Congress. So we’ve had to come up with some innovative ways to try and channel the money to the most needed projects and in the last surface transportation bill we implemented something called national freight corridors, and I-71 from Northern Kentucky to Louisville qualifies for these grants, I-75 from Northern Kentucky to Lexington qualifies and I-64 from Lexington to Louisville qualifies. And so, when we release the money from Congress and it goes to the executive branch some of it’s now been siloed and it has to go to projects like that and already some of those grants are coming back to the district.
Q. You have spent a lot of money in this race. This is one of the most expensive Republican primaries in Kentucky history. I think you spent a million dollars but the polls are showing that you are having a significant lead– why are you dropping this type of money in this primary?
A. Well, I think the most effective thing we’ve done for the campaign is just me doing my job for the last seven and a half years, and traveling the district. It takes like four and a half hours to drive from one end of the district to the other. And we’ve worn out, like four cars doing that in eight years traveling the district, meeting with constituents, working with local elected leaders because I used to be a county judge executive, so I know what they need and what their challenges are and that’s been the most effective thing. Now why did we raise and spend so much money, because this was a serious challenge. I mean this adversary had some notoriety for the Nick Sandmann case, he had received a settlement from CNN, and so he was able to put some of his own money in the race so we had to take the race seriously from the beginning. And a lot of folks rallied, I mean I couldn’t have spent the money if folks hadn’t of given it to me and contributed it but we received an outpouring of support. A lot of people thought I was a weak fundraiser because I kind of go around with $200,000 in the bank, and a lot of congressmen are continuously raising money and they’re sitting on a big stockpile, a war chest they call it I didn’t have a war chest, but I always felt like if I got a serious challenge and I asked for help that it would come and it did.
Q. Your opponent says most of that money that you fundraised though was from out of the state.
A. Yeah, he’s totally wrong on that. We have raised more money in Kentucky than he’s raised nationwide. I mean I don’t know where he comes up with those numbers, in our first quarterly report we raised twice as much as him in Kentucky and in the last pre-primary report to the FEC we raised seven times as much as him in Kentucky. Even if you include the $135,000 of his own money, I guess that’s Kentucky money even though it came from CNN, into his bank account. Even if you count that as Kentucky money we outraised him.
Q. One of the ads that you’re running against your opponent classifies him as a ‘never Trumper,’ however, after you tried to force a roll call vote on the coronavirus bill, President Trump said to throw you out of the Republican Party. Have you spoken to President Trump since then?
A. I’ve spoken with his chief of staff, I’ve been in the West Wing of the White House since then so it’s not like I’m persona non grata. I guess if if you haven’t been tweeted out by the president you’re not doing much in Washington DC. In fact, the president’s chief of staff reminded me that the President tweeted the same thing at him a few years ago, when the Freedom Caucus voted against the health care bill. And so, I just kind of brushed it off and I think things are back to, to normal. And he called me a third rate grandstander and the media wanted to know my response to that I said I’m at least second rate, come on give me some credit. But I think it’s fine and and people wonder if I’ve damaged my relationship with other members of Congress, and I guess the best evidence that I can provide that that’s not the case is I’ve since that day I’ve picked up two dozen co-sponsors on a bill that would allow farmers to sell directly to consumers because with the COVID crisis, there’s been shortages of meat in the supermarket and prices are going up, and I had a bill before the crisis struck to solve that problem and now people are realizing the beauty of it and I’ve got two dozen co sponsors since March 27 when I required people to come and vote.
Q. What was your reasoning behind voting against the coronavirus bill?
A. Well, first of all I want people to know that I voted for the first coronavirus bill. It was an $8 billion bill and it was narrowly targeted at the virus, looking for cures, understanding how it spreads and that sort of thing. But subsequent the first bill to attack the virus, and the other bills have attacked the taxpayer, and my warning on the third bill was that this is too much money going out too quickly, and we don’t have the right kind of controls on it. And in fact, as soon as the money started going into bank accounts we saw it going to dead people, literally dozens of people in this fourth congressional district sent me pictures of their checks told me about how their parents who had been deceased were receiving these checks, and then also we found out in this third bill that Planned Parenthood applied for and received money through that third bill so I think it spent too much money, most of it went to corporations not to people that needed it the most. It also set up a really perverse incentive that keeps our economy from starting back up, even when the governors lift the restrictions, you have the $600 a week unemployment bonus that’s in addition to the state unemployment money, which by the way here in Kentucky Governor Beshear had a real hard time trying to manage his own program. But the $600 for those who have been able to get through the portal and Frankfort and sign up for it is now it’s an incentive to stay home instead of going to work, and I’ve heard from small businesses here, they say thank you very much for the stimulus money, but what I really need is to get my employees back to work and they’re not coming back to work because you’re giving them $600 a week. So, the bill had a lot of issues with it. If there were some parts of it I liked, if it narrowly had focused on the on the virus I could have voted for it.
Q. There have been talks of possibly doing a second coronavirus relief bill, and specifically states and local governments are really hurting and getting hit by this financially and so would you be supportive of a second bill?
A. Probably not just to be honest. I think the governors have this perverse incentive to keep their economy shut down and I feel like until they feel it in their own pocketbooks, they’re not going to be incentivized to open the economy back up so as somebody who was in local government as a former County Judge Executive, I know that it’s tough that revenues are missing. But we’ve got to get people back to work. If there is another stimulus package and it does go to state governments, it definitely has to be tied to those Governor’s opening their economies back up and their schools back up.
Q. Okay, and I’m gonna move back to the campaign, got off there a little off topic there for a second, and really there’s been kind of claims of racism in this race, your opponent had some tweets that had some racial undertones and it came to light that there was confederate flag in n your house and so there was the flag hanging up there and when was that and it has it been taken down?
A. So you can go to my blog, I have a blog about building my house, it was at a construction site, so when we were building the house a construction worker put it up, and I’ll admit I was a general contractor I could have made them take it down but I didn’t. I wasn’t personally offended by it until my me-maw showed up and she reminded me that her grandfather was a union soldier and she said get that down before I ever come back here that your great great grandfather was a union soldier so as soon as me-maw was offended the flag came down, but that’s a far cry, like having a flag up, I’m not going to equate that to racism, for a lot of people that a symbol of Southern pride, or independence or rebellion, it doesn’t mean the same thing to everybody so I’m not going to condemn people that display that flag even though I don’t display that flag at my house. But it’s a far cry from the tweets that my opponent deleted. You can go to my blog and still see the pictures that he’s talking about, but you can no longer see on his page, because he deleted the tweets. In one of them he was espousing an article that said that conservatives need to acknowledge racial disparities in intelligence and IQ. I mean, that is the epitome of racism. And here he was holding this article up and saying this gets right to the point. I mean there’s a reason he’s deleted all of these tweets, he’s gonna have a hard time being employed after this race, based on his social media history.
Q. There have been protests for the past several weeks throughout the country and here in Kentucky. Do you support the protests?
A. I support peaceful displays of protest. I can’t support violent looting, I’ve seen it on the right and the left. But people are trying to make a point, and then a small group ruins it for everybody else by going too far, or inciting violence and you see this all the time in a movement. I think the movements need to be self-policing anybody, whether it’s on the right or the left, if there’s something ugly going on or something violent, they should understand that that hurts their case the people you’re trying to persuade are not the people who are dug in, when you protest you’re trying to persuade the people in the middle, the sort of the silent majority, and when they see violence, that kind of delegitimizes your protest so I think the protesters have a point. I would like to get rid of no knock raids for instance. I don’t blame the police, blame the sort of some of these ridiculous laws and the rules of engagement that they’re in the situations, that they’re put into and we shouldn’t always second guess them, of course there are a few bad apples, but that doesn’t mean we should second guess every move that the police make.
Q. Do you support some type of police reform?
A. Well there’s talk about police reform in Congress. I haven’t seen that bill yet. One of my concerns is, it will have federalism problems. The police are hired by the mayors, and I think the best way to get reform is for the feedback to happen locally, elect a different mayor if you don’t like the police chief that works for him and that’s how you get results. I’m worried that at the federal level, if we try to impose rules about police, we’re going to violate the structure of government that our founding fathers intended, they really never intended for the federal government to be involved with the police. But there are some reforms. I don’t want to send tanks from the military to the police departments, there’s a program where excess military equipment goes to the police, the bulletproof vests or the bullet resistant vests, those, and maybe handguns yeah, give those to the police but some of the military weapons aren’t appropriate and also, like with the FBI we can have reform there and that’s within the federal jurisdiction.