By Miriam Raftery
May 2, 2012 (San Diego) – The newly drawn 52nd Congressional district seat (formerly the 50th) currently held by Republican Brian Bilbray has attracted 10 candidates. Among those is Tea Party stalwart John Stahl, who is challenging Rep. Bilbray’s ethics and conservative credentials.
Host of the conservative talk show “Solutions for America” on KCBQ radio, Stahl has poured $300,000 of his own money into the race. A businessman with an MBA and a former Naval aviator, he pledges to offer “common sense solutions.” In an exclusive interview with ECM, Stahl shares his perspectives on a wide range of issues.
His views are not cookie-cutter political talking points—and some of his stances may surprise you.
Like many conservatives, Stahl voices alarm over federal spending and states on his website that “The inability of Congress to get spending under control has compelling me to act and get involved. I do not think that the status quo and career politicians will get the job done.” He notes that America had over half the world’s industrial capacity at the end of World War II, while today outsourcing has forced many jobs overseas while government workers outnumber manufacturing employees.
“We’ve got to restore the American manufacturing base,” Stahl told ECM. “Government can’t create or save jobs. But it can do four things—government can set trade policy, regulatory policy, tax policy, and enforce intellectual property rights of our engineers and scientists,” added Stahl, who holds a masters degree in business adminsitration from Florida Atlantic University and a BS in mathematics from the University of Kentucky. He has spent 30 years in the semiconductor industry, including working at Texas Instruments before serving as vice president of worldwide sales for TRW/LSI Products and Raytheon Semiconductors in San Diego.
He supports regulations for some things. “Obviously we want clean air, clean water,” he notes. But he views other regulations as standing in the way of businesses creating jobs. “On the trade side, I think these trade agreements need to be looked at. I’m not a big fan of NAFTA.” He also wants to see the U.S. be competitive in “a huge export out there” and to “set up a step ladder economy through our manufacturing base…We’ve got some of the best scientists and engineers in the world, but we are losing our edge, losing our mojo.” He wants to set up “small business councils by industry” to propose solutions.
On foreign policy, he favors an anti-interventionist strategy. “The U.S. does not need to be first in and out on these conflicts,” he observed. “Nation building is not something that is going to fly in all areas of the world.” In Afghanistan, he observes, “bin Ladin is gone and Al Qaeda has been weakened significantly…If we stay for six months or ten years, what more would be accomplished?”
Stahl slams Bilbray for being a member of Republicans for Choice. Stahl favors reducing abortions and calls himself pro life. But his views are less rigid than some more extremists in Congress. “I think rape, incest, life of the mother is a personal choice.” On birth control he believes that extremist views such as Rick Santorum’s have hurt the GOP. “I think that women should have a right to contraceptive drugs,” he added, but does not believe government should pay for birth control services or that employers should be required to offer insurance for birth control coverage. “If you want contraceptive drug coverage in your health care plan than fine, pay for it. If you don’t like working for a place that doesn’t pay for it, work someplace else.”
His views on education are more extreme than many. “Eliminate teachers unions,” he says bluntly, contending that teachers are too concerned with pensions and guaranteed employment. He recalls his own school days on New York’s Long Island before the were a federal Department of Education and says, “The farther away you get from the local situation, the more you inject unintended consequences into it including waste and fraud.”
To reduce Medicare expenditures he wants to see tort reform to reduce “too much ambulance chasing” and also aims to reduce fraudulent billing. But he doesn’t want to privatize or eliminate Medicare or Social Security, unlike many in the Republican Party who have supported such options.
“Wealthier seniors probably should pay a little more,” he suggests, adding that services should not be free for anyone, nor should prescriptions. He adds, “Most Republicans would be in horror of my suggestion that wealthy seniors should take a cut. But if you’re a wealthy senior with a net worth of over $12 million? Once you’ve gotten back what you put in plus a nominal rate of interest, maybe we should cut it back.” AT the other extreme, he doesn’t want to balance the program on the backs of the poor. “Let’s have a backstop for less fortunate people. Let’s be reasonable about it.”
He has set a goal to balance the federal budget in the next two or three years. “I don’t think it’s fair to take money out of a 24-year-old single mother with two kids so that she can pay Social Security benefits for an elder worth $10 million. We’ve got to get this done.”
He wants to see Congress take a close look at subsidies such as those granted to the oil and wind industries. “The federal government is not supposed to be picking winners and losers,” he said, though he acknowledges that some subsidies may make sense such as those for defense or microelectronics.
He criticizes Bilbray for receive “B” and “C” ratings from the National Taxpayers Union. From 1995 through 2010, Bilbray’s ratings have ranged from a C+ to a B+; he has voted with the NTU between 52% and 82%, depending on the year.
He has also slammed Bilbray, a former registered lobbyist, for accepting money from industries with legislation that he votes to support. For example, Bilbray earmarked $750,000 in 2009 for the San Diego Center for Algae Biotechnology and pocketed huge campaign contributions from seven officers and directors of the company. Bilbray has previously faced similar criticisms from Democrat Francine Busby in the last election cycle; Busby revealed Bilbray’s founding of a cigar club that was essentially a front for lobbyists to wine and dine legislators.
“It may all be legal, but it sure stinks,” said Stahl of Bilbray’s ethics in taking money from PACS and special interests. Stahl has pledged not to accept PAC money from special interests.
Raytheon, where Stahl has been an executive, gave money to both Bilbray and to Barney Frank, a liberal, though Stahl said he opposes the company’s efforts to urge employees to donate to its PAC.
Unlike some pro-corporatist candidates in both parties, Stahl wants to see money taken out of politics. “We could solve these problems if we could find 535 people who could go to Washington without special interests…I think the worst decision the Supreme Court has made in the last 150 years is Citizens United,” he said of the landmark ruling allowing virtually unlimited corporate and union contributions to political campaigns. “I’m a conservative first, a Republican second, but I think most Republican eliites support Citizens United.”
He believes the influence of big money also prolonged the Republican presidential primary. “Santorum and Gingrich were being backed by big monied interests, when in the past they would have dropped out,” he stated.
Stahl says he jumped into the race after analyzing the redrawn district and seeing that it is competitive.
But he voiced concerns over California’s new “top two” primary system that mandates only the top two vote-getters in the June primary will appear on the November ballot. “Any third party has no real chance—Libertarian or Green. Once again, the elites have crafted a system and worded it [to their advantage over the people] ,” he concluded. “At the end of the day, Prop 14 didn’t serve the citizsens well.”
He pledges to actively seek out voters’ views if elected. “I will hold a town hall meeting every month in the district. We will have a known topic and people from all stripes can come, even make a Powerpoint presentation,” he said. “Not a shouting match. We have serious topics, and we need to come up with common sense solutions.”
Stahl's endorsements including the National Women Veterans, iCaucus, San Diego Tea Party and the American Independent Party.
To learn more about Stahl and his campaign, visit www.stahl4congress.com.
The new 52nd Congressional district extends east to encompass inland areas such as Lake Murray, Tierrasanta, Poway, Scripps Ranch and San Pasqual as well as some coastal communities such as La Jolla and Pacific Beach, along with places in between. View map.