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true true true true true true

A Conversation With Republican 9th District Rep. Trey Hollingsworth

9th District Representative Trey Hollingsworth

(Zach Herndon, WTIU/WFIU News)

As part of WTIU/WFIU News’ 2020 election coverage, reporter Mitch Legan invited the three candidates running for Indiana’s 9th Congressional District to discuss their policy positions.

The three candidates are Tonya Millis, Libertarian of Bedford; Andy Ruff, Bloomington Democrat; and incumbent Rep. Trey Hollingsworth, Republican from Jeffersonville.

Indiana’s 9th District consists of Brown, Clark, Floyd, Harrison, Jackson, Johnson, Lawrence, Monroe, Orange, and Washington counties, with parts of Crawford, Morgan and Scott counties included.

The conversation with Andy Ruff can be found here.

The conversation with Tonya Millis can be found here.

This conversation has been edited for clarity and conciseness.

Mitch Legan: If you win this election, it'll be your third term as representative. I started here a little over a year ago – why did you originally decide to run for Congress?

Rep. Trey Hollingsworth: A lot of politicians have these stories about what inspired them to run for Congress. Mine was a little bit more frustration, a little bit more desperation. I feel like the American people are owed better than what they've gotten out of Washington for far too long. $30 trillion in debt, an underfunded military, the feeling like Washington wasn't leading like it should be and helping Americans live better lives. And so I come from the private sector, [I] spent my entire career building small businesses across this great nation. And I was really frustrated by what I saw – anemic wage growth, rising inequality, challenges in people being able to access the economic opportunities that they deserve. And so I wanted to run to make sure that we change that. I want every American no matter where they come from, no matter what the color of the skin, no matter what they're endowed with, to be able to feel like they can go anywhere; that they can do anything; that they can accomplish anything that they want. That's who we are as Americans. And Washington for too long has stood in the way of that instead of helping Americans get where they want to go.

ML: So you’ve been in Washington, what achievements can you point to over the last two terms as the representative for the 9th District?

TH: I'm so glad you asked because this is a huge, important part of my campaign this cycle. It's about making sure that the promises I've made are the promises I've been able to keep over the last four years. First and foremost, what I heard every single day across our communities back in 2016 was economic opportunity. And we were able through February to get to the greatest economy in generations – record low unemployment; higher wage growth than we'd seen before; businesses opening, hiring, expanding right here in the Hoosier State at record rates. These were things that I could hear every single day across the district that were making a difference in their lives.

The question is, how fast can we get back to that? And that's exactly why I'm running again, to make sure that the economic opportunity that we were able to achieve, that that will be something that we preserve going forward by getting back to that economy as quickly as possible. And look, we've been able to create a little over 10.5 million jobs. We lost 20 million since February. So we're over halfway back. But for so many Hoosiers who are out of work, for so many Hoosiers that feel like their business is not where it needs to be – where it was – I want to make sure that we continue this robust economic recovery and get to those better outcomes as quickly as possible. That's first and foremost.

Besides economic security, I hear more and more about the need for security in our streets, the need for securing this country from threats from abroad. And that's something that's really important to me: making sure that I continue support first responders, continue to support police, continue support everyone who puts on a uniform every morning to keep us safe in our communities. What we see on TV in Portland and even down in Louisville just across the river is not what Hoosiers want to see in their backyards [and] in their communities.

And then making sure that we support our military abroad. We've seen unprecedented threats, whether that's from Iran, whether it's from Russia, whether it's from China, and we've got to make sure that we continue to fund our warfighter. Not only because we ask them to go to dark and dangerous places to keep us safe, but to make sure that they also come home safe.

ML: You've run a couple times before for Congress. What's it been like running during a pandemic?

TH: Everything about it has changed except the core piece, which is getting out every single day and talking to Hoosiers. Whether it's social distanced conversations and meetings or whether it's knocking on people's doorsteps, whether it's picking up the phone and calling them, the central piece of what I've done every single day since I started running all the way through being in office is making sure that I'm listening, making sure that I'm talking to Hoosiers about the things that they want to see done, the opportunities that they want to see created, the values that matter most to them. I've been knocking on doors nonstop. I've been making calls nonstop. I've been hosting Zoom meetings nonstop. I've been holding Webexs is nonstop, making sure that every single day Hoosiers feel like they have a representative that's working on their behalf, advocating on their behalf, and ultimately getting them the outcomes and results that they want.

ML: Alright, you're leading right into my next question: how do you represent 9th District voters?

TH: Well, that's exactly what gets at the core of what we've been talking about, which is making sure that they feel like they've got somebody that they connect with. That they've got somebody that shares their values. And look, the reality is, the district is very, very different. Right here in Bloomington, many Hoosiers feel very differently than they do five miles away and Ellettsville, right? It's really important to make sure that, remember, we have a very diverse district. But being able to aggregate the views of so many meetings, of so many phone calls, of so many door knocks, of so many conversations, of so many Zoom calls, to ensure that when I get on the plane to go back up to D.C. on a Monday that I'm carrying the essential issues that Hoosiers care about.

I think for too long, Washington has worked absent great input from Americans. Washington has worked on its own issues – issues that matter most to them inside the beltway but not the issues that matter most to us right here at home. And making sure that I get back to a Washington that's listening, get back to Washington and working on those priorities, get back to a Washington that hears those values is hugely important to me. And I'm going to continue to do that. Not just during campaign season, but I do it even outside of campaign season. Last year, I made over 30,000 phone calls to Hoosiers all the way across the district. I didn't just call Republicans, I didn't just call Democrats or just call Independents. I called everybody I could get a hold of to ask, "What's going on with you? What are you concerned about? What are you hoping for? What do you wish Washington would stop working on? What do you wish they would start working on so that we get to those better outcomes?"

ML: Bear with me on this one – sort of the same topic, how familiar are you with Andy Ruff, the Democrat?

TH: I've read some of his campaign platform. I've heard him speak a few times about the things that he wants to see done. I wouldn't consider myself well-versed in everything that he's ever said or everything that he's done in his history here on the (city) council. But I've certainly made sure that I understand there are big differences between what he's campaigning for and what I'm campaigning for, what those two visions are.

ML: Okay, so a follow-up question to that: are you familiar with his music at all? He's got a band, "The Dew Daddies."

TH: I've heard his song about me, that's for sure! Yeah, I think that is his claim to fame during the course of this campaign, that he's been able to put together a catchy jingle. And so I know that he is much more musically inclined – I will tell you the only "C" I got in all of middle school was in band, so I could not compete with his musical talent. And if that is the metric by which we are going to judge our vote, then he will certainly secure that vote.

ML: Well the reason I brought it up is because I wanted to give you a chance to respond. He's really been kind of banging that drum that, you know, he's a natural-born Hoosier and you're not.

TH: I get that, that's the central theme of his entire campaign is that he was born right here and has been has been well-versed before I was. I think that what people care about is someone matching their values [and] focused on their priorities. And I think if Mr. Ruff traveled outside of Bloomington's city limits nearly any time, he would recognize that the rest of the district feels very differently about socialized medicine than his proposals. The rest of the district feels very differently about the Green New Deal. The rest of the district feels very differently on the pro-life versus pro-choice question than he is espousing. I think it's about making sure that we are in sync with the values that matter most to Hoosiers.

And so he can claim that this election is about geography but I don't think it is. I think it's about priorities and I think it's about values. And I think when Hoosiers go to the polls over the next couple of weeks, I think they're going to ask theirselves, "Who is fighting for the values that matter to me and my family? Who's fighting to ensure that the things I want to see done are the things that we're focused on?" And I think every single day of the week, we are going to prevail in that question.

ML: To get into policy now, I want you to give me your pitch. Going into a third term if you're elected, what kind of policies are you going to pursue that'll help 9th District Hoosiers?

TH: Well, we've already talked about a lot of it. The reality is we are in a recovery that needs to expand, needs to become even more robust, needs to ensure it touches every Hoosier and every American's life for the better. And that is my first and biggest priority. I want to make sure we recover the balance of the 20 million jobs that we lost, the 10 million we've got left to go. I want to make sure we get to that robust economy where we're seeing real and meaningful wage growth for Hoosiers. I want to see Hoosiers being able to start small businesses in their garages right here in Bloomington and be able to see those become the Cummins of the next generation. I want to make sure that we are the land of opportunity because I hear more and more Americans worried about that, worried that opportunity will close because of a more socialized-focused government. And what they want to see is the opportunity to create a better future for themselves by virtue of their own effort, by virtue of their own work, by virtue of their own talents, by virtue of their own character. Not to be handed more by government.

ML: I've got a couple of hot topics here. I'm gonna throw 'em at you and you can respond. First up, the Green New Deal - your thoughts on that?

TH: This is a simpleton idea, the idea that the government is going to take on the burden of improving every single building around the country, that the government is going to ban air travel. These are very simplistic approaches to what is a very complicated problem. And you've got some of the best experts on climate change and on carbon pricing right here at IU, doing tremendous research and making sure we come up with a answer to this problem that respects the complexity, that respects the nuance of the issue itself, is hugely important to me. For too long, both Republicans and Democrats have run on platforms that say, "You can either have jobs in the future or you can have a clean environment." But we've shown over the last 20 years as America has been a leader in the reduction of greenhouse gases per capita and per dollar GDP around the world, that you can have both. And making sure that we have a real, tailored and nuanced approach versus just a wholesale $30 trillion cost to the federal government, this is what I've been advocating for from day one. Not putting our heads in the sand, but also not screaming that the sky is falling. Making sure we find an appropriate, balanced answer that respects the fact that Hoosiers want to have jobs in the future; they want to create better economic outcomes; but they also want to see an environment that's cleaner for their kids.

ML: Next up, "defund the police."

TH: I absolutely, positively everywhere across this district have talked with police officers, with our first responders, with law enforcement more broadly, and I couldn't be prouder of the work that they do every single day. To run around and say that we are going to defund the police is incredulous. It's unbelievable. It's an affront to the work and sacrifices made by so many every single day to keep us safe in our communities, to ensure that an ambulance is there when we call it, to ensure that a police officer is there when we need him or her. This is hugely important work and it's something that I continue to be grateful for every single day. I hate to see this trend, this mood taking over so much of the country because what I hear from Hoosiers every single day is that they not only respect law enforcement, but they're grateful for the work that they do every day.

ML: A question that we've gotten from quite a few of our viewers and listeners: do you want the Affordable Care Act overturned?

TH: What I want to see is a health care system where the patient is put at the center of it, not where government's put at the center of [it]. The last thing I want to see is a "Medicare for all," a socialization of the entire medical system such that when you break your ankle, you're gonna have to call a bureaucrat to find out what the answer is for being able to treat that broken ankle. When you're 65 years old and you need a knee replacement because you've been running your whole life, you're gonna have to call up a bureaucrat and say, "Gosh, I really want to get this knee replacement." And they're gonna run a calculation, as they do in other socialized medicine systems, to say, "Well, does he really deserve this? He's lived a good life, he's only got X number of years left, maybe that's not worth the cost."

Ultimately, we don't want a system that rations care based on what the government thinks is best, but instead enables patients to be able to choose their own care, their own places for care, their own providers and their own treatments. America has more cures than any other country around the world for various diseases. This is because of our system. When you go to France and enter that socialized medicine system, they have fewer cures than we do in America, fewer options for treating chronic diseases than we do right here. Making sure that they can go and see a wide variety of providers to get the care that they need, not be forced into a system that's one size fits all, that doesn't put their needs first but puts government first.

ML: Term limits have been a big thing for you, you've proposed two bills on them. Why do you think term limits are important?

TH: It gets back to exactly what we talked about before. What I hear from Hoosiers every single day as I'm knocking on their doors, as I'm talking to them at town halls, as I'm having meetings is, "I don't feel like Washington represents me. I feel like Washington represents the career politician that's been there forever. I think they're working for their own careers, they're not working for the American people." The only answer to that is making sure that there are limited number of terms that members can serve so that they know they live by the same laws that they have passed. So that they have that alignment of interest between what they're going to see when they leave Congress and what everyday hard-working Americans see. I want to make sure that that comes to fruition. It is the biggest thing I live on; it's the thing that I advocate more for. And frankly, as Gandhi said, "I want to be the change I want to see in the world." And so I've made sure that I will serve no more than four terms, as well.

ML: Transitioning to the pandemic, how do you think the State of Indiana's government and the federal government overall – how have they done handling this pandemic?

TH: It's a great question. I have been a big advocate for a realistic understanding both of what the strategies are for mitigating transmission of the virus, but also where we are going long term with this virus. Way back in March, very early on I gave a radio interview where I said very clearly, the idea that we are all going to sit in our basements forever and eventually the risk of coronavirus is going to be equal to zero is misguided and untrue. And we have to deal with the reality of what we will be able to achieve, even when we have a vaccine. Even when we have antivirals, even we have better treatment protocols – much of which we already have – still yet we are going to see infections, still yet we are going to see tragic outcomes because of this. And we have to be realistic about the game and the strategy that we're in. I hear Hoosiers every single day that say, "Gosh, I understand the risks of the virus. But I also understand the risk of my family not being able to put food on the table."

READ MORE: Indiana Congressman's Comments On COVID-19 Policy Draw Backlash

And so I think we need a better balancing of those two while simultaneously understanding where we are going with this. For example, we've been working on the flu for the better part of 70 years. We have flu vaccines, right? We have flu antivirals. We are very good at treatment protocols from the flu. But the risk of dying from the flu is not zero. This is not going to zero even after we have a vaccine, even after we've inoculated a vast number of Americans. Recognition of that is really important so that we're not moving the goalposts further away. But we have frank and honest conversations that are rooted in biological science but also social sciences, AKA economics, to ensure that we get to the right outcomes for Americans who are struggling with both of these things at the same time.

ML: There's been some talk of another COVID relief package – does the president want one, does he not want one – I'm gonna ask you, what are your thoughts on another stimulus package? And who should get that money?

TH: Well, you asked the most important question, which is, "How do we allocate the resources?" Recognizing that resources are scarce, approaching $30 trillion in U.S. federal debt, is a very scary proposition for so many Americans who are worried about the next generation that have to repay that. And making sure we're thoughtful about this policy is hugely important to me. But the reality is, (Speaker of the House) Nancy Pelosi has forced two votes in the House on this. Number one, a $3.5 trillion package I believe in May, then another $2.2 trillion package just last week. Both of these packages didn't represent the values and the priorities that I hear Hoosiers talking about. They had many priorities in there for the Northeast, many priorities in there for the West Coast, many priorities for her constituencies but not many priorities here for Hoosiers. 

Ultimately, I am absolutely in favor of ensuring that we target industries, [that] we target individuals who need help to get through this period and make sure that they're recovering alongside other industries. But this isn't an opportunity to add a bunch of pork to this. This shouldn't be an opportunity for us to hang on every legislative priority of every single one of her members. This should be really targeted and focused because ultimately, we are not spending the U.S. Federal Government's money. We are spending taxpayer dollars that they have remitted to the federal government. This is $3.8 trillion every single year that are remitted to the federal government that people work very hard for. I owe it to them to make sure that we are spending it efficiently and with as much efficacy as possible on the important priorities that matter to them.

ML: Finally, Trey, why should the people of the 9th District vote for you?

TH: Look, I always think the most important thing to ask yourself when walking into a voting booth is, "Who matches my values? Who's working on the things that are important to me? Who will focus on the issues that my family faces every single day?" And this is exactly what I've done for the previous four years. Every single week I send out a poll [and] ask Hoosiers all the way across the district, what do they want to see us working on? What is their opinion between two different issues or two different opportunities? In addition to that I've hosted hundreds of town halls, hundreds of meetings, hundreds of conversations – now over zoom – I've knocked on thousands of doors. I've called tens of thousands of Hoosiers across the district to make sure I'm listening to everybody, to make sure I'm focused on the issues that matter. Because I not only want to keep the promises I've made, but I want to continue to find ways to serve Hoosiers in other ways. It's about the economy. It's about national security. It's about securing our community and it is about making sure we're fighting back against the coronavirus. Those are the things I'm going to work on from day one all the way through the last day.

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