Voters in Kansas’ 4th Congressional District head to the polls next week to pick their new representative. Mike Pompeo resigned from Congress in January when he became CIA director.
The three candidates in the special election were chosen at their respective party nominating conventions in February.
Libertarians nominated Chris Rockhold as their candidate; the former pilot and current FlightSafety International instructor beat out two other hopefuls for the nomination.
This is the second time Rockhold has run for public office. In 2014, he was in the race for the Washington state Legislature's 17th district; he got 10 percent of the vote.
He recently spoke to KMUW's Deborah Shaar about the race and his campaign for the 4th District. Below are highlights of their conversation:
On why he's running for Congress:
There are a number of reasons. One is to get name recognition for the Libertarian Party. The other reason, which I feel is very important to me, is to give people an opportunity to have a choice in their election instead of just the two parties, which is what we've had basically for 160 years without a break. To give people another option or another choice--somebody that they feel is aligned with their views, and isn't in the pocket of special interests.
On his interest in politics:
When I was 16, I was going to high school in Arizona and I remember a gentleman coming to the school and talking about the Libertarian Party even back then. It sparked something in me—this idea of getting back to the Constitution, about responsible government spending, personal liberty, personal freedom—and it sparked the interest in me to look into researching the Constitution and Libertarian Party. So it's carried me through into the various elections that I've done.
On his campaign slogan, "Safeguarding Kansas":
“Safeguarding Kansas” to me means making sure the government isn't taking away your personal rights; isn't taking away more money than we need to take care of the programs that we have to have; also, giving people more options for educating their children. That's a big one to me. And so if we're talking about Kansas, we're talking about safeguarding the Constitution and the United States as a whole but particularly I think that would resonate with people in Kansas.
On education and school choice:
I know a lot of people are scared of vouchers. They feel it's going to be the death of the public education system. But I feel like, we as a capitalist society say we like competition, and the public school system right now I don't feel has competition at least not with our tax dollars. We say it’s OK if you can afford it, you can send your kids to a private school. But what about the kids that are left behind that don't have an opportunity or can't afford a private school? Their only choice is the public school system. And so I want to give those kids a greater opportunity—more school choice—and I think that will influence the public school system to become better than it is.
On job creation and economic growth:
One of the things I've come to discover about Kansas is that it’s very agricultural, especially when you get outside of the big cities. From the research that I've done, it seems like there's a market out there for what we're producing in Kansas—in particular, soybeans and wheat and these things that just sit in grain houses and we're not moving them. They're not selling. Why isn't the leadership in our state pushing for more international trade? That's where the markets are, and I really feel like we could do better in promoting Kansas agriculture products on an international level.
On national trade policy:
I like the idea of trade with other countries that is truly free trade. If we're going to say “free trade” it needs to be free on both sides. We can have a lopsided trade agreement—where we say yes, we're going to get all the stuff from your country and no tariffs. But then when we try to export something to their country, then they hit us with all kinds of taxes and so forth. So, if we're going to have free trade, it really needs to be equitable trade. International trade also improves international relations I believe.
On whether he has a shot in a historically Republican district:
Absolutely. I think the message of individual liberty and efficient government resonates with everybody. I don't think it is just libertarians. I think Republicans and Democrats alike like a lot of the principles in Libertarian Party. This election particularly—it’s a special election, so turnout is going to be historically low. I think I've actually got a real shot here. I think the conditions are ripe here for a third party to win an election.
On his message to voters:
One of the things that I want to make clear to the voters in Kansas is that whether or not they vote for me—if I do win—I represent everybody. So I want to hear from everybody—even people who don't agree with me. People who say, “You know I don't like that guy at all,” but I still want to talk to them. And so if I do get into office, I want to absolutely have an open door policy. I want to have one day a week where I just take phone calls or answer e-mails. Or, people can come in [to my office] if they are in Washington or here in Kansas—maybe sit down and have lunch.
I'm a real person, and I feel like if you are going to elect somebody, they should be approachable and reachable, and they should represent everybody in the state or everybody in the district not just the special interests in Washington.
This is the first in a series of profiles on the congressional candidates. Listen to 89.1 FM or visit kmuw.org Wednesday for a profile of Democrat James Thompson.
Follow Deborah Shaar on Twitter @deborahshaar.
To contact KMUW News or to send in a news tip, reach us at firstname.lastname@example.org.