WEST PALM BEACH — Former Florida House Majority Leader Adam Hasner (R) faces Lois Frankel (D) here in one of the closest, most expensive House races in the country.
Despite his GOP leadership positions and close ties to Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), Hasner insists that his party is contributing to the fiscal crisis that built up in recent years and promises to dominate official Washington business in the coming months. But calling out his own party may be necessary in a closely-divided district where President Obama performed well four years ago.
2chambers spoke with Hasner last week before arriving in Florida. Our conversation, edited for length and clarity, appears below:
2chambers: How well do you think you’re doing?
Hasner: The polls have this race as a dead heat. There’ve been a couple of new polls that have come out in the last 24-48 hours. We’re just working around the clock. It’s exactly what I’ve said from the very beginning – when people get to know me and know Lois Frankel, we’re going to get people on our side.
When people hear our message, it’s not a message of scare tactics and blame and finger-pointing, it’s a message of specific ideas and solutions and do the things that are necessary to create jobs and reduce spending.
And I’ve reminded people that both political parties are responsible for getting us into this fiscal mess. This election is about math and what the numbers mean for people, their families, their jobs and their small business and their health security and their retirement. We can’t keep spending $1 trillion a year more than we’re bringing in. It’s unsustainable, it’s stifling job creation and it’s become our greatest national security threat.
2chambers: What have Republicans done to run up federal spending?
Hasner: They’ve been just as responsible for running up the debt going back to the Bush years and the years when Republicans were in control of Congress, they ran up about $5 trillion in debt. Republicans and Democrats share in the blame for adding about $10 trillion in debt over the last 12 years. To me, our deficits and debt are the greatest threats to our economic security and our national security going forward.
2chambers: Have you taken a look at the sequester deal?
Hasner: Yeah, it wasn’t something that I supported and it’s not the best way to go about responsibly reducing spending and creating the pro-growth environment for job creation.
2chambers: What would you have done instead?
Hasner: I think you need to have comprehensive tax reform of lowering rates and broadening the base, both on the individual and corporate side and right-sizing regulations. And at the same time, having a responsible plan to reduce long-term deficits on the real cost drivers in our budget. I would also include reductions in spending, in areas of the Defense Department and discretionary domestic spending. But if we don’t get in control the things really contributing to our debt, which is Medicare and Medicaid, that’s going to result in a real fiscal crisis. I think it all has to be done as part of a larger more comprehensive deal.
2chambers: You said you cut some defense spending – which is something you don’t hear from many Republicans – where would you cut?
Hasner: I think there’s a lot of ideas in Tom Coburn’s “Back to Black” agenda, where there are some common-sense reductions that could be made. Military personnel in Europe, defense contracting, transparency in contracting. So I think there’s a lot of ways to reduce waste and duplication and unnecessary spending that does not jeopardize our national security.
2chambers: On taxes, what would you do with the Bush-era tax cuts?
Hasner: I’d like to see the current tax rates extended, but as part of tax reform, I would like to see all rates lowered and begin to eliminate the loopholes and exemptions both on the personal and corporate side to lower rates. I wouldn’t support the lowering of rates unless they were off-setting exemptions that were repealed.
I’m not running for Congress to make it a career. I’m very different than Lois Frankel and very different, quite frankly, from a lot of candidates running around the country running on both sides of the aisle.
I am voluntarily going to abide by term limits. I’m going to refuse a pay increase and a pension and the reason why I’m running for the United States House of Representatives is because I believe we have a very limited amount of time to put our country back on the right fiscal track. Just like any family and any business, you can only live beyond your means for so long.
2chambers: Did you sign the Grover Norquist anti-tax pledge?
Hasner: When I got into this race, we decided no more pledges. There’s too many pledges. But having said that, I don’t believe that raising marginal rates on income taxes or any of the dividends or capital gains is the right way to get small businesses hiring again, creating jobs. What I would prefer to see is a simplification of the tax code, something that would make complying with the tax code less costly.
Where I think we really need to attack is getting federal spending down to historic lows. That’s really the key to getting our balanced budget approach.
2chambers: Why do you want to be a part of such an unpopular, unproductive institution and how would you – as a veteran legislator – help turn things around?
Hasner: Well first of all, I have over 15 years in the health-care industry working with hospitals and physicians of working with them to integrate health-care systems. I’ve done every job in a physician’s practice from answering the phones and scheduling and insurance billing and collection.
So 15 years in the health-care industry and the last several years with energy tech companies and renewable energy companies, I think I bring a lot more experience from a business community perspective than Mayor Frankel does.
But I want to go to Congress because if people who are going to Washington like Lois Frankel, who are more concerned with their own personal agenda, keep going up there, we are never going to fix the real problems that our country is facing. I’m running for Congress because I’m prepared to go up and do some hard things to make sure there’s economic prosperity today, but more importantly that there’s economic opportunity for future generations. If we don’t do that, people in my generation and younger are not going to have the same opportunities that my parents had.
2chambers: So you think that just by being there a few years will help reduce the rancor?
Hasner: I do, because I believe there’s a limited amount of time in order to begin to turn the tide. Because continuing on this path is a guaranteed recipe for fiscal disaster.
2chambers: You’re campaigning this week with Marco Rubio. What do you make of his tenure so far?
Hasner: I’m proud of Marco’s leadership in the Senate as a freshman. He’s come in there with a very clear voice on American leadership and on tackling the tough problems that we face. I think he’s one of the most articulate in our party of being able to deliver a message about how opportunity is available for all if we get American back on the right track.
I was the majority leader when he was the speaker. So I was his number two.
2chambers: What’s something perhaps we don’t know about him?
Hasner: I imagine everyone knows, but maybe you don’t know, but he would much rather be the commissioner of the NFL than a U.S. Senator.
He’s not as fast as he used to be – he used to be a wide receiver, but I don’t think he has the speed anymore.
2chambers: How is Mitt Romney going to win Florida?
Hasner: I think the Jewish vote is also not as much in lockstep as it has been historically.
2chambers: Why not?
Hasner: I think across the board, on the economy, on Israel, on opportunity for the future generations, I don’t think it’s any specific issue, but I think we’re seeing a lot of voters within the Jewish community who voted for President Obama in 2008 are reevaluating their support.