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true true true true true true

A Conversation With Tonya Millis, Libertarian Candidate For Indiana's 9th District

Tonya Millis, Libertarian Candidate for Indiana's 9th Congressional District

(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 Mitchell; 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 Rep. Trey Hollingsworth can be found here.

This conversation has been edited for clarity and conciseness.

Mitch Legan: So to start off, I was reading on your campaign website that you had originally been a Republican and in 2016, you switched the Libertarian Party. I'm curious, why'd you make the switch?

Tonya Millis: It took a couple decades, actually. I started watching our freedoms and liberties slowly being whittled away over a period of time, and that was with both parties. The Democrats and the Republicans just took turns in Congress, in the House of Representatives, and our debt kept going up and up and up and up and is now $26 trillion and climbing. Before COVID-19, it was $23 trillion. And we can talk more about that later. But that's why.

What inspired me to run is probably a negative inspiration. We the people's independence is fading. So I just felt compelled to stand up and serve because I was looking around me and it didn't seem like there were people in my district that were speaking out loud enough or had a loud enough voice. And I got tired of yelling at the TV. So I was like, "You know, I'm a small town realtor with small town money donations, but I can do it." And I'm making a go of it.

ML: What's running in a pandemic been like? It's gotta be tough, especially being a third-party candidate.

TM: Some of the difficulties I have are the same difficulties my opponents have, except if you've got a lot of money, you can do more TV ads. And that benefits the wealthy people who are in politics. For me, I haven't been able to be in parades, on floats and go to the larger festivals that have been canceled, because I would want to have booths and be able to speak to more people. But because of COVID, I'm spreading myself out further, going to the smaller venues: the flea markets and the farmers' markets and that sort of thing.

ML: As a third-party candidate, what kind of feedback or traction have you been getting?

TM: I've been getting a lot of positive feedback because most of the people I talk to are sick and tired of what's going on in Washington, D.C. They're burned out, they're done with them. And once we talk about the issues, they're on board with me. And there'll be some people that will say, "I'm voting for Trump, but I'll vote for you for Congress," or if they're a Democrat, just the opposite. But they're very open to a third party in the House of Representatives.

And if I could speak on that, there are 435 members in the House of Representatives. Each one of the parties, to have a majority, has to have 218. What if neither one had 218? If you just had a small group of Libertarians throw some independence in there – a small group of 15 people, maybe even 20, [would] keep them from having the majority. We call it the “duopoly” because it's a two-party monopoly. But it's simple math. And I intend to be part of that group that goes to Washington, D.C. to stop the madness. And all across the country there are Libertarians running for Congress. I think there's almost 70. Texas may have 36 alone. But yeah, we can do this. And this year, the political climate is ripe. Yeah, it's ripe to do it.

ML: You mentioned money in your previous answer. Can you take me through how finances are going for you and maybe some of the difficulties of raising money during a pandemic?

TM: Well I'm very prudent with my money, very efficient. I have the tenacity and the stamina to do the groundwork. And I also have a lot of support. I've got some good people around me, volunteers. The Libertarian Party is the largest third party next to the Republicans and Democrats – the Libertarian Party is right there. And so we have county groups like the Morgan County Libertarians and the Clark County Libertarians down south. And they all are wonderful. They do good work in their communities. And so whenever I go to the different counties, there's a lot of support for my candidacy.

ML: Do you have any prior political experience?

TM: No, this is the first time I’ve run for office. I'm 59 years old pushing 60. So this is not a career move. I'm a real estate broker. I like what I do. I just felt the need – compelling is the word. I felt compelled to stand up and serve my community, help my constituents out [and] give the people a voice. It seems like right now we don't have a voice. District 9 does not have a real voice.

ML: That outsider status – do you think that'll help you in the upcoming election?

TM: I think so. Yeah, I do, at least at this level. For the House of Representatives, like I said, the American people in District 9, as well as all across the country, they're fed up. So it's not a far cry to say, "Hey, let's put a Libertarian in there." It's not. And like I said, when I talk to the people, they are so open to that.

ML: How do you represent 9th District voters?

TM: [I’m a] native Hoosier, born and raised. I love living in the country. But I have no trouble getting around in the city, either. So when I talk to the people of all different types of religions, some people on the farm, some people grew up in the towns, they're very similar. Mostly, I would say, right-leaning conservatives is what most of the district is but there are some pockets of progressives.

ML: To dive into policy a little bit – again, looking at your website, you've talked about the "Three R's" that you're kind of fired up about. I believe it was “Rules, Regulations and Runaway Debt.” Go ahead and tell me about your policy platforms.

TM: Yes, I'm running against the "Three R's": too many Rules, Regulations and Runaway Debt. Some of the rules and regulations really stymie small businesses. It's really hard for someone who has a really good idea, the know-how in their expertise and [they want] to start a business. But they have to jump through so many hoops and do so much paperwork and all these permits to get started. And it costs a lot of money just to do some of the paperwork needed to get done and getting the licensing and that sort of thing. So that needs to be tampered down. I know some of our truckers, the trucking industry – the truck drivers have had to jump through hoops and they've made it harder for them. I could go on and on and down the list.

But the main thing that I think is hurting our country is the debt, like I spoke about before. You, your cameraman, your parents, your coworkers, all your students – before COVID-19, you each owed $76,000 on top of student loans, mortgage rent, car payment. That was your share of the debt. Some people say, "Oh, you know, it's $23 trillion debt," as if it's some obscure entity in outer space. No, it's not. That's our money, your money, your debt.

And after COVID, they did the stimulus package. And there was the PPP (Paycheck Protection Program), which is for the personal private businesses; small loans for the private businesses; and then they had PPE, which was the personal protective equipment spread out to everybody. And then individual stimulus checks. A lot of people got $1,200. That added an additional $6,000 that you, you, you and everybody owed. So now we're at about – I think it's roughly $83,000 that each of us owe. And what's going to happen is because we're not paying our bills other than the interest on the loans and they still keep borrowing.

People think, "Oh, I got $1,200 dollars," when they got the stimulus. That money was borrowed. And years ago, they used Social Security as a lien to get to borrow money. So people don't realize that the value of the U.S. dollar is going to start to fall and the Mexican peso is going to be worth more than the U.S. dollar if we don't do something. We need to roll it back.

ML: How will Libertarian priorities – we haven't had a Libertarian congressperson in the 9th District – how will those priorities help 9th District voters?

TM: The same as it would help the rest of the country. Libertarianism is pro-Constitution. I'm a constitutionalist. You know, pro-First Amendment, pro-Second Amendment on down the line.

One thing – this year, we had people talking about the suffrage movement because it's been the 100th anniversary of the ratification of the 19th Amendment, giving women the right to vote. Well in Southern Indiana, specifically in the 9th District, there has never ever been a woman representative in Washington, D.C. I intend to change that. But I'm not running on gender. I'm running on the issues and my "Roll It Back" campaign. So I'm hoping people will go to my website, that's tonyaforcongress.com.

ML: You said you're running on policy; for some people who might not be as familiar with Libertarian Party, can you tell me, how are you different than the other two who are running? You know, Democrat Andy Ruff and maybe especially the Republican Trey Hollingsworth – how does Libertarianism differentiate?

TM: Well, to start, I'm not running against them personally. I'm running against the broken two-party system that they both represent. So it goes back to freedom and liberties, people's personal responsibility, your personal space and not getting in your business. That's what the Libertarians are about.

There's a lot of talk about the cannabis. Making that legal, a lot of states are doing that, and actually I'd be in favor of Indiana doing that because it's a victimless crime.

ML: I'm going to throw some hot topics at you, things people are talking about nationally. I have an idea where you might lie with this, but starting off with the Green New Deal, can you give me your thoughts on that?

TM: Our country's broke. So the green New Deal isn't even an option. It's not gonna go anywhere. Don't even need to talk about it.

ML: Alright. "Defund the police," your thoughts on that?

TM: I think that the police is different in every state and every community in different cities. So I want to go back to some of the problems that we've been having that's causing the protests and all of that, okay? Modern technology – our cell phones with the video cameras – modern technology has shined a light on some of the brutal wrongs and some of the things that have been going on for hundreds of years that people never saw. And so now, we're starting to see things. And just like with every company, every institution, most people are good, and they have good intentions, but you always have those "bad apples." And I think with the police forces in many communities – not all of them – there's some of those bad apples that need to be weeded out. And I think our local officials are working with community leaders now. We've got a long way to go and more work to do but I think that is going to start progressing in the right way. I'm just trying to be positive on that. And I think I think it will get better. We still have a ways to go.

ML: Trey Hollingsworth, our current representative, he's been big on term limits. Can I get your thoughts on term limits?

TM: Yes. In fact, my term limits are stricter than his term limits. I think no more than two terms, which is four years [in the House of Representatives]. We've got three quarters of a million people, at least, in the 9th District. You can't tell me there isn't people around that can stand up and serve. There are. It shouldn't be about money – whoever has the most money is the one elected – that's not how the process should be.

ML: The big news [recently] was the state moving into Sage 5 of reopening. Gov. Holcomb moved to reopen the state. Can I get your thoughts on that decision?

TM: I'm good with that.

ML: Can you expand?

TM: Well, actually, I think it should have been sooner. I think we all should be safe and I think that our businesses, our patrons are doing best practices as appropriate, depending on where they're at in the venue. It's been a learning curve for all of us.

ML: The second part of this question: how do you feel that the State of Indiana and the federal government have done balancing keeping people safe and allowing people to live their lives and make money, work, things like that?

TM: If we go back to when the COVID-19 first hit the United States, when we all were aware of it – the CDC, this is something they were set up for. They were set up to handle pandemics and things like that when they hit our country. They dropped the ball; they were not ready. I think they get like something like $12 billion a year for their budget, and they are just a big bloated bureaucracy that was not ready for something they were designed to take care of. So FEMA (the Federal Emergency Management Agency) and the different agencies stepped in and started taking over some of the responsibilities right away.

My suggestion is, and I know people are going to be screaming, that we close down the CDC [and] take their responsibilities, research and science development and all of the things they were supposed to be in charge of, go ahead and put that in FEMA, streamline it [and] save the taxpayers a lot of money. And it would be more efficient that way. Because if FEMA was going to step in anyway like they did, then what was the purpose of the $12 billion a year for the CDC?

ML: Would it be safe for me to assume you will be voting for Donald Rainwater this November?

READ MORE: Indiana's Gubernatorial Race Isn't A Sure Thing For Incumbent

TM: Oh, of course. And I know him. Yes. He will make a great governor. And down here in Southern Indiana, he's getting a lot of good buzz, he really is. He's a good guy. He's salt of the earth and he will make a great governor.

ML: Why should people of the 9th District vote for you?

TM: What I'd like to say to the voters is: stand with me. And what that means is when you go vote, and after you vote for president, you get to U.S. House of Representatives. Take a stand if you're tired of what's going on in Washington. Stand with me. Vote Tonya Millis, it's as simple as that.

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