Interview with Oregon Senate Candidate Jim Huffman

Interview with Oregon Senate Candidate Jim Huffman

By The Situation Room - October 5, 2010

BLITZER: Let's zero in now on the battle for the U.S. Senate. Republicans need a net gain of 10 seats to reclaim the control of the chamber. With every race important -- and even Oregon -- the state of Oregon is now on the radar for some Republicans.

The Democrat incumbent, Ron Wyden, has been in the Senate since 1996. He won his most recent term by a wide margin. But the anti- incumbent mood across the nation could leave him more vulnerable than expected against his Republican challenger, Jim Huffman.

And joining us now from Portland, Oregon, Jim Huffman. He's the Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate. He's challenging the incumbent, Ron Wyden, the Democrat. Mr. Huffman, thanks very much for coming in.

JIM HUFFMAN (R), CANDIDATE FOR SENATE: Thank you for having me, Wolf.

BLITZER: Are you part of the Tea Party movement?

HUFFMAN: I wouldn't say I'm part of it, although I've spoken at numerous Tea Party rallies and I think they're an important part of -- of the -- the base that I need to have support me in this election.

BLITZER: Are they involved?

Are they helping you right now?

HUFFMAN: Well, I think they're helping. I think they're -- they -- they believe that my stands on fiscal responsibility are exactly what they're concerned about. So I think they're being very supportive.

BLITZER: Well, let's talk a little bit about some of the key issues, Social Security, for example.

Do you favor privatizing Social Security?

HUFFMAN: I favor giving young people an op -- an option of -- of putting some of their money into a private account. At the same time, I'm very concerned to preserve the benefits that people have invested in for -- those who are already retired and those near retirement.

BLITZER: But you believe Social Security is constitutional, right?

HUFFMAN: That it's constitutional?


BLITZER: All right. Because there are some Republican candidates out there who question the constitutionality of Social Security and Medicare, but you're not one of them?

HUFFMAN: I'm not one of them. There's a -- I've run into people questioning the constitutionality of all kinds of things. But I've taught constitutional law for 37 years and I'd say Social Security is constitutional.

BLITZER: And Medicare, as well?

HUFFMAN: And Medicare, as well, yes.

BLITZER: What would you do in -- in those entitlement programs, to save money?

You're worried, obviously, about the deficit. It's growing by the trillions all the time.

How would do you reduce the deficit?

HUFFMAN: Well, I think we have to reign in spending across the board, get more efficiency in government. But you're correct to suggest that a lot of the problem is with entitlements. And I think what we have to do is look at future -- those in the future who are going to be entitled to these various programs and start extending the age of entitlement and Social Security, for example, and controlling future benefits.

BLITZER: In other words, raising the age from 67 or whatever to 70 or beyond?

HUFFMAN: I think -- for people who are just entering into social security. I don't want any changes for people who are currently on it or will be in the next 10 or 15 years.

BLITZER: You want to extend the Bush tax cuts from 2001 and 2003 for everyone, even though that's going to wind up costing over the next 10 years nearly $4 trillion, right?

HUFFMAN: Well, I would prefer not to think of it as costing the government anything if we don't extend it, it costs the taxpayers.

And the reason I would extend those tax rates for everybody is because in this state, about half of small business would be affected if we didn't extend it for people making over $250,000 a year.

BLITZER: So you want a permanent extension of the 2001 and 2003 tax rates. You want that to go on indefinitely?

HUFFMAN: I do. Although I would like in the long run some fundamental tax reform in the direction of a flatter tax system.

BLITZER: And the tax -- the tax rates for those earning more than $250,000 a year, which the -- the Democrats at least a lot of the Democrats and the president -- they wanted to go back to the rates that existed during the Clinton administration. You don't want that. You want it to continue as-is even for the wealthiest Americans?

HUFFMAN: Absolutely because when we - in that category of the wealthiest Americans, as I say, they're included half of the small businesses in the state of Oregon.

BLITZER: Do you support abortion rights for women?


BLITZER: You do support abortion rights for women. Do you believe that President Obama is a Christian?


BLITZER: Do you believe he was born in the United States?

HUFFMAN: I do. I have -- I see no evidence to the contrary.

BLITZER: Is Sarah Palin qualified to be president of the United States?

HUFFMAN: You know, I don't know about that. I admire her. T he impact that she's had on politics, that she's rallied a lot of people to politics who haven't been involved in politics before. Whether or not she's qualified, I think she's -- her experience is probably no less than the current president's.

BLITZER: Is there a republican out there right now you think who is most qualified to be the next president of the United States? Someone you already like?

HUFFMAN: Well, I'm a supporter of Steve Forbes many years ago. I don't think he's running any longer. I am an admirer of John Thune from South Dakota. I think he's a very able and strong politician and I think he's a good candidate.

BLITZER: What's your biggest problem with Ron Widen, the incumbent?

HUFFMAN: Well, the biggest problem I have specifically with him aside from his general position and his voting 97 percent of the time with the Democratic leadership was his vote on the health care bill.

He had a much better idea. He knew it was a better idea. He said that competition was essential in health care to get costs down and then he voted for a bill that does nothing to increase competition.

BLITZER: And you want to repeal the Obama health care legislation?

HUFFMAN: I would support repeal of it. I think there's a serious problem in health care, which is high costs and I think that the Obama care legislation does nothing to reduce costs.

In fact, it's increasing costs. We're seeing it all around us today.

BLITZER: The fact, though, that tens of millions of Americans will eventually be eligible for health insurance and pre-existing conditions will no longer be a factor, doesn't that motivate you a little bit?

HUFFMAN: It motivates me to get better reform than we got in this thing. I think this bill that we enacted, that Congress enacted, as I say, increased costs and it does nothing to bring competition.

If we want to provide better service to those who are uninsured, those who aren't getting health care and aren't getting health care, we need competition, which will bring costs down and increase quality. That's what happens in the every other service and product in our economy.

BLITZER: Jim Huffmann is the Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate in Oregon. You're behind in the polls. You got four weeks. Can you do it? HUFFMAN: I think we can do it. We look at the election here two years ago. Senator Gordon Smith was up by about 10 points at this point in the election and he lost to Jeff Merkley.

Scott Brown was down 26 points with a month to go so absolutely. I think we can do it. It's a question of getting our name familiar out and our message out and I think we're doing that.

BLITZER: Thanks very much for coming in to THE SITUATION ROOM.

HUFFMAN: Thank you very much, Wolf. It was a pleasure.


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