2014 is an election year in Kansas, and Examiner.com is sitting down with some of the candidates for key races so that the voters will be able to make informed decisions. The next in this series is a phone interview with congressional candidate Chris Clemmons, the Libertarian nominee for congress in the Second Congressional District.
Clemmons has a degree in geology and secondary education. He has taught three years of seventh grade life science and started gardening and outdoor programs for his students. Clemmons grew up in Leavenworth, and enjoys outdoor activities around the state, including fishing, hiking and camping. He engages in many forms of mixed martial arts.
We spoke with Clemmons regarding his run for the United States Congress.
Why are you running for office?
I have become more and more political over the years. I have never tried to take a job in politics, my degree is in geology and I teach. I have paid attention to what’s going on with our Constitution and it was really kind of getting me fired up. Edward Snowden and his revelations are really what pushed me forward in running for office, there’s an urgency now. That’s what got me into it.
What are your qualifications?
I am a teacher, and I think that really does prime me pretty well to deal with a whole room of politicians. I’m used to dealing with a room full of 11 and 12 year olds, as many as 40 at a time. The ability to teach issues and my opinion, I’m really good at explaining my ideas and getting people to see things my way. I think that’s going to be a useful tool.
Third party candidates have a reputation for being spoilers for the two major parties. Do you agree with this assessment?
I find that particular point of view, I’m not going to say offensive, I am going to say that I disagree with it. That kind of gives the connotation that the only people who are supposed to win a race are democrats or republicans. Clearly our system might be set up like that now, for the last hundred years or so. The idea that you’re not putting the appropriate people in office, you can’t say that I’m spoiling it. I’m as qualified as the other candidates, or I would say even better qualified.
Why do you think that you have a better chance than past third party candidates?
I think we’re at a time in our country's history where people are starting to wake up and understand the facade that the media has put up for the last fifty or a hundred years. They tell me “I don’t agree with either the democrats or republicans.” People are more informed now, we have the internet and internet based news, more journalistic integrity on these issues. People are awakening to the fact that they can vote for a candidate instead of a party. I think that’s a positive change, overall for our country. It’s a positive change that’s getting us out of our corporate run system. Libertarians aren’t backed by big money corporations or PACs. I think we have a populace whose awake and aware of what’s going on.
Same-sex marriage appears to be heading toward legalization in most states. If elected, how will you ensure that the LGBTQ community will gain equal rights?
My stance is pretty similar to the rest of the Libertarian Party; if we have a law that applies to citizens it needs to apply equally to all citizens. If someone is required to get a marriage license to get benefits everyone should be able to get that. It’s discrimination, and I’m anti-discrimination for all laws, whether it’s race, gender or sexual orientation. I could say that I would support legislation to basically ensure that all state laws apply to all orientations equally. That’s what’s occurring in other states. That’s what someone can do at the federal level, ensure that all laws apply equally to all citizens,
What is your opinion on oil fracking?
I think it’s terrible. I have a degree in geology, so I have a really good idea of what’s actually going in terms of geology. There are some instances where oil fracking is safe, where there are no water wells contaminated from fracturing wells, where the oil and gas are really deep and there’s no chance of contamination. There are situations of states up north where wells are contaminated, where they are permanently damaging the water source for entire towns. That’s something we have to protect. These wells will be permanently damaged and remain damaged, long after those who damaged it will be sued and paid. The people damaged right away will be paid, but the other generations after will still have to deal with the damages. We have to be careful and aware of that. I’m not going to say I will pass anti-fracking legislation, but I am very much against the practice in many areas of the country.
Do you support an increase in alternative forms of energy, including green energy such as solar and wind?
I am 100 percent in support of any sort of alternative energy. The federal government should stop trying to pick winners and losers in terms of the energy market. The market should decide what is appropriate for the future of energy. With fracking we need to keep proper restrictions on that. When it comes to giving away subsidies, that needs to stop. Stop passing laws to block solar or oil or whatever, just let the market decide.
Do you support the legalization of marijuana? Do you have any any lasting concerns about the regulatory and safety of marijuana?
I’m in favor. I don’t have any concerns about it. Each state should be able to regulate substances as it sees fit. At the federal level we need to decriminalize it and let the states run the show as they see fit.
What is your opinion on gun rights?
I’m a staunch constitutionalist. The Second Amendment is just like any other in the Bill of Rights. These rights should not be infringed in any way, shape, or form unless the Constitution has been changed. I do believe in it as a living document, but I believe it should be amended only to add rights, not to take liberties away from the public.
What, if anything, will you do in order to make the Affordable Care Act more palatable to your constituents?
My biggest problem is that it takes away choice from the American people. It forces them to pay for something they rightly don’t need to have. Someone who is twenty years old doesn’t need it. It’s great to pay in and help others, but the federal government doesn’t have the right to force people to buy into it. It’s another tax. In terms of regulatory control on insurance companies, it’s keeping certain people from dying from insurance company greed, but I’d like to see at least the mandatory purchasing of insurance be lifted from the American public.
Do you support school choice in the form of vouchers?
Yes, absolutely. As a matter of fact, my state passed what was called KELA (Kansas Education LIberty Act). It’s what the Libertarian Party has been trying to pass for awhile. It got enough republican backing to get school choice into the recent education bill. I’m a big supporter. I think people should be able to educate their children wherever they see fit. Being a teacher I don’t necessarily like the idea of certain students getting stuck in a school district that misappropriated funds and ultimately downgrades their educational experience. Parents should have a choice and be able to send kids wherever they want without having to move their families.
Do you support an increase in the minimum wage?
That’s a big one. If a state wants to set its own minimum wage that’s up to the state. What federal government does when it attacks wages with a blunt tool like that is kill a lot of small businesses. I have family members who have small businesses, and they’ve told me that if minimum wage increases they won’t be able to stay in business. That’s how close to the red they are. They have services that the community likes and would miss. Sure, Walmart could afford to pay workers better, McDonald’s could and probably should. If Americans really want to see it they need to act as a consumer body and stop shopping there. I’m a big advocate of being an informed consumer. Hold Walmart and McDonald’s responsible. I don’t think the federal government should be controlling the companies wages.
How would you handle the current immigration crisis?
That’s another of those issues that’s incredibly nuanced. It’s hard to quickly sum up what needs to be done. What we really need to do is enforce the border, ensure people aren’t coming here illegally. Number two, we hold businesses responsible for hiring. If you have illegal workers, if you’re encouraging people to come in and get work, you should suffer penalties. Finally, we need to make our immigration process streamlined and make it much, much easier to obtain citizenship for those who are wanting to take the legal route. Part of the problem is the way our system is set up now. You need a lawyer to know what the documents say. This three step process should at least stem the tide of illegal immigrants.
Do you have anything else you’d like to add?
I think one of the most important things we can do to increase agricultural production in our state and a lot of other dry farmland is to legalize hemp. China and Canada are the two biggest exporters where we are getting our hemp from, I think China is where we get the most from. I think hemp could replace some of the harmful plants, like cotton that sucks up water, tree farms that are harmful to the ecosystem. I think hemp could replace them. We’re looking at, especially in the Midwest, redesertification. We’re sucking up water and nutrient resources and losing the breadbasket of America. We’re using soy and corn, those aren’t appropriate for the Midwest. This might be a Midwest issue, but it will be a nationwide issue if we don’t do something. It might seem like typical libertarian hemp pushing, but the plant really could save agriculture in this country.
On constitutional issues, my main platform, my main issue, is shoring up the Constitution. The NDAA, Patriot Act, RICO, getting rid of these laws that are severely unconstitutional and wrong. Agriculture and the constitution are my two main issues.