An Interview With Alex Mooney

"I describe myself as a traditional conservative in the mold of Ronald Reagan."

“I describe myself as a traditional conservative in the mold of Ronald Reagan.”

TDR: As a Hispanic American, what drew you to the Republican Party and the ideals of conservatism more broadly?

AM: Well, I’m the son of an immigrant, and on my father’s side, my grandfather came from Ireland. I believe all immigrants come here simply looking for an opportunity. They don’t come here looking for a handout or welfare or special privileges. They want an equal chance to live the American Dream. [They want to] own their own business; own their own home; keep the profits from their hard work – that is the crux of what they want. The moment an immigrant arrives – whether it’s from some Hispanic country or [another country]– the Democratic Party comes in with its agenda of ‘we’ll give you free stuff! We’ll give you free healthcare! We’ll give you money for food and housing! The countries where these immigrants come from, most of them anyway, don’t give out free stuff. [Immigrants] are not used to that and they aren’t stupid either. They know that someone has to pay for all of these benefits the Democrats want to give them. It’s tough. It’s a temptation. It’s hard to turn down free benefits. And that’s the whole agenda of the Democratic Party. Unfortunately, [the promises of these entitlements] just can’t continue. People want to work and keep their profits; they don’t want to give [their money] to somebody else…Our country cannot continue that way. That’s what worries me, and that’s why I try to explain to my Hispanic friends that they should be voting conservative, because we want a government that’s going to function in the future.

TDR: We noticed that you were chosen as the “Taypayer’s Hero” in 2003 for cutting regulations and taxes on small business. Can you give us a specific example of regulations you would cut should you be elected to Congress?

AM: Sure. I would lower the corporate tax rate to encourage reinvestment in domestic  jobs. I would absolutely cut the death tax because it is an onerous tax on people’s estates when they pass away. I would repeal Obamacare completely. [Obamacare] is a horrible government intrusion in the free market. Let the free market take over. Let people [purchase insurance] from whichever state they want to buy from, or whatever private insurer they choose. The reason I got that award, in addition to having a proven record of voting for small government… was the pledge I took not to raise taxes. And during my 12 years as a State Senator, I never once voted to raise taxes. In the liberal state of Maryland, where I was Senator and where I used to live, that was hard to do. I stood my ground and I said during my campaign I would not raise taxes and I was one of the few Republicans that stuck to that pledge… and that was one of the reasons I got that award. My father was a feisty Irishman from New York and I remember when I was 12 years old during the 1984 election, Walter Mondale, the Democrat candidate for President, admitted during a debate with Ronald Reagan that he was going to raise taxes. Later when I was a student at Dartmouth and I studied the election results, I realized that Reagan won that election 49 states to one. I connected that to what my father said about the American people not wanting their taxes raised. The first time I ran for the State Senate, which was 1998, I knocked on 10,000 doors. Of all 10,000 people’s doors I knocked on and the thousands of people I talk to, no one asked me to raise their taxes… Not once did anyone say ‘Hey Alex, I want to vote for you and once you get in the Senate, raise my taxes!’ No one ever said that. So, when I got elected of course, I got all these special interest groups and liberals who wanted to benefit from higher taxes came to lobby me for taxes. But I kept my pledge and that’s why I got the award.

TDR: So how do you see yourself working with the current Congressional leadership and overcoming some of the national legislative gridlock?

AM: I think [legislators should] stick to principles. Most people are familiar with how [Governor Scott] Walker took on the special interests and teacher’s unions and cut state spending. His constituents recalled him and they attacked him viciously…Walker did everything right. He passed right to carry, he passed the school choice proposals, and because of that, the Democrats really wanted to get him. Scott Walker stuck to his principles. Now, Wisconsin has reformed its spending patterns and they have a balanced budget and the voters have rewarded Governor Walker with reelection. I think we need to apply the same principles in Congress…We need a balanced budget. The American people want a balanced budge. I think if the Republicans stick to their principles and say ‘we’re going to balance the budget,’ that they would be rewarded for that. I think one of the reasons that Republicans give into increased spending and increased debt was because they are afraid of the political backlash. But I don’t think there will be a backlash. I think if the voters actually see them not cutting a deal, not trying to do a bailout or give a special interest a benefit, I think they will reward the Party with greater representation in Washington.

TDR: Within that vein, what were your personal takeaways from the Republican defeats in recent national elections and what have you tried to do differently in your own campaign?

AM: I make it clear that I will stick to my principles… I say repeal Obamacare completely. Don’t fix it; don’t try to make it work better. It’s a complete train wreck. Just repeal it completely. I say you have to have a balanced budget. In the recent years, people like Ted Cruz have tried to cut Obamacare, but the Democrats just had a better resolve than we did. But, I still want to give the House of Representatives some credit. They have passed a repeal to Obamacare just over 50 times now. And the US Senate won’t take it up. So, at this point, it’s all about the November election and hopefully if the Republicans can take over the US Senate, we can start to dismantle Obamacare… and cut spending and pass balanced budgets.

TDR: We also read that you recently got an endorsement from former Congressman Ron Paul. Would you characterize yourself as a fellow libertarian?

AM: I describe myself as a traditional conservative in the mold of Ronald Reagan. For example, when I was a state senator, I led the fight against things like red light cameras and speed cameras and I fought against taxes. Folks that are – like Ron Paul – concerned about growing government, the surveillance of US citizens, and the inappropriate use of government have seen my voting record and I’ve earned their respect. There can be differences with folks on an issue here and there, but my voting record has been so strong on less government and… personal privacy that Dr. Paul endorsed me.

TDR: On a similar topic, there’s been a lot of talk about a ‘civil war’ within the Republican Party between the establishment and Tea Party upstarts. What is your opinion of the Tea Party movement and how would you identify yourself within that theoretical rift?

AM: I continue to identify myself as a traditional conservative, and to me that means the Ronald Reagan mold where you have strong national defense, less taxes, fiscal conservatism, and traditional values. I think that there’s been too much in the press made up about the divide in the party. I think that the establishment conservatives and the Tea Party have a lot in common: they all oppose Obamacare, for example, and they want a balanced budget, so I think the real problem in this country is the liberal wing, the social wing, the progressives. I’ve been able to get support from all parts of the Republican Party who have seen my record and my willingness to work with all Republicans.

TDR: How is running for office and connecting with the electorate in Maryland different from campaigning and connecting with the electorate in West Virginia?

AM: Well, what I found the voters in West Virginia are concerned about the spending issue. Maryland is a higher income states, and West Virginia is not. The hardworking folks of West Virginia, live within their means and therefore when they see the federal government spending out of control, it’s really offensive to [them]. West Virginia has a coal industry: it’s their top private enterprise. Obama is waging an all out war on the coal industry, which is essentially a war on West Virginia. West Virginia is more of a coal state than most others, and [Obama’s proposals would] really hurt the economy in West Virginia and it’s also one of the reasons why we West Virginians are not voting for Democrats these days. Maryland voters have similar concerns and want to see government spending cut and don’t want to see more debt ceiling increases without any kind of balanced budget plans.

TDR: How did your time at Dartmouth help you develop as a leader and get you involved in politics in the first place?

AM: I was a philosophy major, so I like to think that I have a good, thought-out basis for my views. When someone challenges me on why I take a position or why I won’t raise taxes, I feel I have an answer.  Unfortunately in the political process there is not a whole lot of time given to explaining your position. One of the things I learned at Dartmouth was how to write well; I was not an English major, but you can’t graduate from Dartmouth without learning how to write well. This skills has served me well. Dartmouth alumni have [also] been supportive. I know from when I was a student that the College always promoted alumni loyalty. When I meet another Dartmouth grad somewhere, they’re usually open to being of assistance in the campaign if they can.

TDR: How were you politically engaged on campus? 

AM: I was active with the Aquinas house, AQ, where I went to church. I was actually vice president at AQ. I was also the president for two years of the Dartmouth Coalition for Life. I did that my junior and senior year of college. We did have a Republican Club… I was a member… but I can’t say it was very active. I didn’t write for The Review, but a lot of my friends did. I was [also] a SigEp – Sigma Phi Epsilon.

TDR: What were your perceptions of The Review at that point in its history?

AM: I was a big Review fan. It was a needed perspective on campus. I was a conservative, so I agreed with what I read in The Review. My father – who’s passed away now – made a point of subscribing to The Review, even long after I graduated and had left Dartmouth…. The Editor-in-Chief [of the paper] during my senior year was named Ken Weissman. He was one of my best friends on campus.

TDR: Why did you decide to run for the New Hampshire House of Representatives back when you were a Dartmouth student?

AM: Actually, some folk in Hanover, acting with the pro-life group, asked if I would run to fill the slate, as it was actually hard to find three candidates to run. Anybody who was a Republican nominee was automatically delegate in the New Hampshire Republican Convention, which would allow you to vote for conservative [positions] in the platform, such as the pro-life plank, so that was how it came about. The primary was unopposed.  They knew that it was extremely unlikely for a Republican to win from that particular area, and that’s what happened: the Democrats won by about a 2-to-1 margin. But I was able to participate in the Republican convention and was able to vote for the prolife plank for the party.

TDR: Did that encourage your interest in politics or persuade you to pursue politics after graduation?

AM: I was always passionate about the political process and I think it’s hard to fight the left no matter what state or country you run in. I ran for the [State] Senate four times and I won three, and frankly, just as in sports and other things in life, you often learn more by your failures than your successes. Just going through the process of an election is a learning process.

TDR: As a Dartmouth alumnus we’re curious about how you’re connected to the Dartmouth community and if you have any advice to impart on the younger Dartmouth student readers.

AM: My connection is through staying in touch with alumni that I’ve gotten to know. A few years ago [I was elected to] the Dartmouth Association of Alumni, and that’s the group that sets the rules for the Trustees Elections… I was involved with that, which connected me to a lot of other alumni who were concerned with the direction of the College. As far as advice goes, I would [encourage students] to your principles and just get involved in whatever God calls you to get involved in.

Nicholas P. Desatnick also contributed to this article.