Voters in Alabama's 1st district will choose the Republican nominee in a Tuesday runoff that pits Bradley Byrne against Dean Young. Byrne has deep support from the business wing of the Republican Party, while Young is a controversial candidate counting on tea party activists and Christian conservative voters to help him spring an upset. Polls show a close race, and the winner is near-certain to win the Dec. 17 general election in the heavily Republican district. We sat down with both candidates in Alabama late last week. Below is our conversation with Young, edited for length and clarity. Later, we will post our chat with Byrne.
Fix: What's the biggest difference between you and your opponent?
Young: The differences couldn't be more stark. I mean, you've got the establishment Republican, who's going to go in there and do what's been done for decades now and lead us in the same direction. Then you've got the conservative Republican, the Ted Cruz-type Republican, that's going to get up there and change the way this nation's headed, and stand up and do what's right.
Fix: What was your stance with regard to the government shutdown showdown?
Young: I would have shut down the government.
Fix: And you would not have voted for the bipartisan Senate compromise to reopen it?
Fix: Why not?
Young: We need to stop what's going on in Washington. The last time we had the government shut down, we had a lot of good things that came out of that. We as a people need to have congressmen that will get up there and mean business. Not just what they call "kick the can down the road." You can't just keep doing that. We need a budget, we need to know what we're doing with our money, where it's going. And just to keep adding to the deficit and and these budgets with no end in sight -- it's almost immoral what they're doing. And we need to have some men and women up there with enough spine to do what's right. That's why you don't just keep letting it go. Because if you keep letting it go, you keep getting what you've been getting, which is higher deficits and the government intruding in everybody's lives. And you've got to stop that. The government needs a complete overhaul. The federal government needs a complete overhaul.
Fix: What do you think of House Speaker John A. Boehner?
Young: What do I think about him? I wouldn't vote for him.
Fix: Why not?
Young: I think he's not doing a very good job. We need to get somebody up there to do a good job and get this country moving back in the right direction. He's third in line [for the presidency]. I mean, this is a powerful position that he's got, and we need somebody up there that will get the country moving back in the right direction, not just keep giving in with the same old, same old, establishment Republicans.
Fix: Who would make a good speaker? Any suggestions?
Young: I don't know who's up there running and where they are in the lineup. But I'm sure there are several that are much better than him.
Fix: You mentioned Cruz. You've compared yourself to him. What do you think of him?
Young: I think Ted Cruz is doing a great job and we need more men and women like him that stand on principle, not like my opponent who wants to work with the establishment and cut deals and all that stuff. That's what got us where we are.
Fix: Polls shows the Republican brand took a hit after the shutdown. Some Republicans argue the party should not have picked the fight it did. What do you make of that?
Young: You do what's right. You don't walk around taking polls every day. You've got to be men and women enough to do what's right no matter what. The polls -- that shouldn't have an indication on what you do. You do what's right all the time, and then you'll be okay. The reason we're in the shape we're in is because people played around and looked at polls every single time before they made a move instead of going, "this is the right thing to do." If it costs me my job, I'm going to do what the right thing is. Our goal shouldn't be to be a politician for the rest of our lives, our goal should be to go up there do honorable things, stand on principle, and if the people don't like what you do, they fire you.
Fix: You sound like you don't think the shutdown was the end of the world.
Young: No, the shutdown was not the end of the world. As a matter of fact, I said it should still be shut down until we get some answers and some real changes in Washington.
Fix: Who do you view as the leader of the Republican Party?
Young: The man that's doing the best job up there is Ted Cruz. And Rand Paul. Because they stand on principle. You know what they stand for and they stand for it. They don't take a poll and change their mind.
Fix: Are you disappointed that national tea party groups have not jumped into this race on your behalf?
Young: Yes. And I don't know why [they have not come in]. There are some people out there, but these larger groups, these huge groups that are supposed to be helping people like me -- they are nowhere to be found.
Fix: How small is your organization?
Young: (Points to smartphone): There is a computer in this smartphone. I can do all kinds of stuff in this smart phone. We're lean and mean. We're doing it the old-fashioned way.
Fix: What are you focused on in the final days of the campaign?
Young: Get out the vote. That means get my people, let them know that I am with them. Help them do what they're doing, call people, text people, mobilize.