Hill is a State Farm Insurance agent and lost the District 2 senate primary to Sen. Greg Evers in 2010. A graduate of the U.S. Air Force Academy, the candidate served 10 years in the Air Force before entering the private sector.
IN: So, if you can just give me a little about your background and why you decided to run.
HILL: I’m a military veteran, graduate from the Air Force Academy, served 10 years active-duty in the Air Force. While serving active duty I went to school at night and on weekends and got my MBA at the University of West Florida. And then in 1990 I opened a State Farm agency, and I’ve been with the company now 23 years as a small business owner. Five years of that was with company leadership—I was what was called an agency bill consultant. So, I’ve been in the Panhandle now since 1985, that’s when I first got stationed at Eglin, and have been in this area, in this district since 1995 when State Farm moved me here.
So, that’s a little bit about me. I have three children, my wife and I have been married, it’ll be 31 years in August. She’s the wife of my youth, the only wife I’ve had, a true jewel; the children are such a blessing. They’re all doing well. The oldest now is going to the University of West Florida, he’s a sophomore there. My daughter’s a senior, my son’s a junior at Alethia Christian Academy.
And, why I decided to run: because I think it’s time to start having some good government. And in order to have good government you have to have the right people there that will make the right decisions to give us what I call good public policy. And what I think make up good public policy are four factors—there might be more, but I narrow it down to four. Number one: is it constitutional? I am president of Northwest Florida Tea Party, so keeping it to those core values—is it constitutional?—is important to me.
Number two: is it fiscally responsible? When I mention ‘fiscally responsible,’ first of all, is the money being spent wisely? As a public official you have to be responsible for other people’s money. It’s not yours, it belongs to hard-working people who have had that money to give to the government—actually, taken by the government—to allow them to perform its functions. So we have to be very responsible of how we spend that money, and making sure it’s for the overall good and not just benefiting some special interest or a few crony buddies.
Third, to have good public policy, you need to analyze what problem, or problems, will it fix? Both in the short-term and the long-term. For the long-term, I’m talking five years and out. So, that will take some critical analysis, some critical thinking to not just have a knee-jerk reaction to fixing what looks like a short-term solution when it may have more problems later on.
And fourth, is it morally supportable? I’m a Christian, have been since I was 13-years-old, I’ll be 55 in June. I’ve been a Christian a long time, and so the values of my faith are so important.
And so I think all four of those need to be in place to have good public policy. Is it constitutional? Is it fiscally responsible? Will it fix problems both short term and long term? And is it morally supportable? That’s why I’m running; I’d like to take that kind of good government to Tallahassee.
IN: What do you see as the bigger issues facing Florida, Northwest Florida and District 2, specifically?
HILL: I can say that in one word: jobs. I like what I have seen Governor Scott do in terms of helping our economy. The government itself cannot create jobs, but it can help create an environment to help foster job creation. And we’ve seen our employment rate drop to the lowest it’s been, I think, in five years. It’s below the national average now, it was not like that previous to Governor Scott coming into office. So, I would like to see that continue, those things will help our economy recover and job creation.
IN: I was reading your website, you’re talking about cutting ‘waste’ and ‘unnecessary’ expenses. What would you consider ‘waste’ or ‘unnecessary’ expenses?
HILL: Probably as a good example—and thank goodness it was stopped—was the high-speed rail that was going to be built between Orlando and Tampa. And also the high-speed rail which was going to eventually connect, almost, to a national high-speed rail system. And, again, I agree with Governor Rick Scott, how he stopped that from coming into Florida. And thank goodness, because as we see in California, where they agreed to continue with that, it’s already over budget, I think it’s like 68 percent over budget from what they had originally expected, and now they’re talking they’re going to have to raise taxes in order to pay for ongoing expenses, which I think are in the range of $500 million a year. Wasteful, unnecessary.
Those are the sorts of things that I would want to stop, that I consider wasteful. Much better places we could spend our money, such as on education, helping our military veterans, helping those who are unemployed, let me say that differently, getting regulations out of the way for businesses, so they can then help those who are unemployed and start helping our economy recover.
IN: RESTORE money. Sen. Gaetz recently inferred that it might not be entirely wise to leave RESTORE dollars at the discretion of the county level. What are your thoughts on that?
HILL: I believe in local government. The more local you are the closer you are to the issues. You know better how it could and should be spent. Now, the whole purpose of that RESTORE money was to make whole those businesses that were hurt by the BP oil spill. I think some of it may have gone a little beyond that, of just helping those who actually experienced a loss.
IN: Are you talking the claims process?
HILL: No, I mean just the whole amount of money. And the claim process probably was, I guess, the reason the money grew. And what I mean by that is there were, are some legitimate companies that lost—
IN: I guess I’m talking about the Clean Water Act.
HILL: Oh, Okay, I see. Again, I would go back to local government. I believe in more local government. I think that, again, they’re closer to the problem. They can fix it quicker and easier than someone far away.
IN: Blackwater state forest—Sen. Evers and Rep. Broxson both floated the idea of drilling in Blackwater. What are your thoughts on that?
HILL: I will admit that I haven’t studied that in detail, and of course that is one thing I would want to do on any issue that comes before me, is learn all about it. The positives and the negatives against it. I will say this: if it could be done safely and cleanly, not affecting the environment in a negative way, then I would be for it. But, again, I would have to study the data to see what would be the environmental impact on that. And, what would be the economic impact? And weigh those to see, would it be a good decision to go forward?
IN: Let’s play a game. Kind of like word-association, except you get to say more than one word.
IN: All of these are on the table of the Florida legislature this year, or at the national level.
HILL: Okay. If I don’t know, I’ll say I don’t know.
HILL: For guns. Absolutely. I believe in the basic God-given right to defend yourself. I don’t think you need anyone’s permission to defend yourself. If I were to come up to you and start, just with my fist, knocking you around, you don’t need to ask anybody, ‘Hey, can I stop this guy now?’ That, I think, is the most basic issue about guns, gun-rights, being able to defend yourself. You don’t need government’s permission to defend yourself.
IN: Do you support anything along the lines of, ranging from background checks to—
HILL: No, no I do not support background checks at all. I think what that does is opens up a registry, a database, that the government should not be involved with. Getting back to good government: Is it constitutional? And I will say, ‘No, that is not constitutional.’ Because our Constitution says, ‘You shall not infringe on the right to bear arms.’
HILL: Healthcare, it’s a huge mess right now. I am against Obamacare, I don’t think that is the right way to fix our healthcare. What I believe will fix our healthcare is free-market energies. ‘Energies’ isn’t the right word, free-market capitalism. Allow the market to do that. I don’t think government controls or interference will solve that problem, it only exacerbates the problem.
IN: Isn’t that what we have right now, though?
HILL: You mean government interference, yeah absolutely.
IN: No, I mean, isn’t that why we’re having the whole healthcare-reform discussion, because it is a free-market system?
HILL: No, no, no, it’s not a free-market system. No, there are too many, right now, government controls and regulations on our healthcare system, which has caused these problems. I say you take those out of the way and let the free-market operate. And you’ll see just, because it has been proven, wherever it has been given the freedom to have been tried, not only in the U.S., but around the world, free-market capitalism works, and it works in any system, including healthcare.
I’m in the insurance business, we sell health insurance and I know about the rules and regulations, which are put on not only the insurance industry, but also the healthcare industry. If you remove a lot of those it will operate much more efficiently.
IN: How does that system work out though in the lower levels of society, where people don’t even have the wherewithal to participate in a capitalistic vision? How does that work out for them healthcare-wise?
HILL: Well, they don’t because of how the system has evolved. It wasn’t always like that. Before government got so involved in the healthcare system, what did we have? We had doctors that made house calls to people. Now, of course, we’ve become a lot more sophisticated than that and that causes costs to go up, but you will always have competition, which will help keep those prices down.
And we’ve seen time and time again. I’ll give you a good example: the airline industry. When it was deregulated, what happened? Prices dropped. When you get government out of the way—cost controls don’t work. Gas prices. When they stopped setting the cap on what gas would cost what happened? The prices dropped and the long lines went away.
Because you cannot refute the basic economic law of supply and demand. Because that’s a human function. That’s how people react. And it’s the same thing with healthcare. You let the basic economic law of supply and demand operate. And just through natural efficiencies it will work. I think Adam Smith called it ‘the invisible hand.’
IN: Gay marriage, or domestic partnership.
HILL: I’m a Christian and I believe what the Bible says about marriage, about families and that it should be between a man and a woman. That, that is how the idea of families growing can take place, is between a man and a woman to be able to have children. Family is the nucleus of our society. So I think traditional marriage between a man and a woman is the foundation of our society and that’s what I’m for. And, again, it goes back to my faith, as a Christian, I believe that’s what the Bible says.
HILL: Marijuana. Against the legalization of it. Only because I think it would be too harmful, the effects it would have on our youth and on our workforce. Just like any other drug would. Let me say, when I say ‘drug,’ I mean illegal or illicit drug.
IN: How does that jive with the Tea Party platforms of state-rights or individual freedom?
HILL: Well, because you’re a Tea Party member doesn’t necessarily mean you’re a Libertarian. I think Libertarians—there’s a lot of things I agree with Libertarians on, there’s some I don’t. But, I can’t think of anybody, or any group, that I agree 100 percent on everything. But, because I’m a member of the Tea Party doesn’t necessarily mean I support the legalization of marijuana or any other illicit drug.
IN: Citizens Insurance.
HILL: Citizens Insurance is a disaster about to happen and it needs to be fixed. What will fix citizens insurance are a couple of things. And, again, it is removing government interference. Right now if Florida, the government, specifically the Department of Insurance, will regulate premiums on homeowner policies. And what they try to do is cap it at certain levels.
Whenever, as we’ve seen in the past in other instances—the airline, and even trains at one time, and gas—when you try to cap a price it creates a shortage. When a shortage is created it causes the costs of that to go up. So, when you get the government out of the way, including Citizens—Citizens was designed to be the insurer of last resort, but it’s become the insurer of choice for a lot of people, because the premiums are artificially low, set that way by the government, and it is being subsidized right now by everyone in Florida who has any form of property insurance. We see it on our auto insurance, we see it on our homeowners insurance, we see it on our boat insurance, a young college student renting an apartment sees it on their renter’s insurance. We’re subsidizing those that have Citizens Insurance and that’s not right.
So, how do you fix it? Again, I’m a free-market capitalist. I’m a zealot when it comes to that. When you get government out of the way, let insurance companies charge the premiums that are actuarially sound, what you would find is that Florida would become very attractive to a lot more insurance companies, a number of them which have fled the state. They will come back into the state and then they will, again out of sheer competition, those premiums will eventually come down to what the market will allow.
Now, that’s a long-term fix. We’re talking three to five years at the minimum. It’s not something that can be fixed in one legislative session. But I think that’s what our legislators need to look at and that’s what I would look at. And that’s what I would look at when I go to Tallahassee, what’s the long-term solution, not just something this session which is popular with some group, whether it’s the insurance industry or whomever, it’s going to be popular with them, popular for your next election. No, let’s look at this for the long-term solution and make the right decision. It may be painful short-term, but eventually it’s what’s going to work.
IN: Lastly, can you explain what the Tea Party means to you? Do you see it as an actual political party? Do you see it as a strain of philosophy? How does it jive with the Republican Party?
HILL: Right. I see the Tea Party as a movement. And it’s not new. And it’s not unique to the United States, even though this is where it really grabbed hold and helped to form a nation. The Tea Party is a movement of people who are fed up with tyranny coming from a government elitist who are trying to dictate to people how their lives are going to be lived.
And so it started in our country, of course, with our revolution. But it has risen several times throughout the history of our country when there’s been a need for it. To end slavery in this nation, the Tea Party—it wasn’t called the Tea Party—but the Tea Party spirit, movement rose up and got rid of that in our nation. The right for women to vote and then the Civil Rights movement, those were all Tea Party-type spirits, movements, initiatives where people were fed up with tyranny. And so they rise up.
Now we find we’re in a situation again where we have a tyrannical, leviathan government that are dictating to people, and the Tea Party just naturally rises up.
I don’t see it as a third party, as compared to the Republican Party or the Democratic Party, I don’t see it like that. The Tea Party rises up when it’s necessary and then it kind of goes back into the fabric of society until it’s needed again. Kind of like Congress was supposed to be. You go, you serve for a period of time and then you come back home and become a part of society again. That’s what I see the Tea Party as.
IN: Do you think it’s as relevant as it was in 2010?
HILL: I think so. And I think we’ll see it when the elections come up in 2014. Again, they rise to the occasion. In this special election that’s coming up—now, I’ve had a number of people in the Tea Party, in fact all the Tea Parties in the Panhandle are supporting me. They want a Tea Party-type representative there. An outsider, not a politician going to Tallahassee doing the same old type of I’ll-scratch-your-back-you-scratch-mine, and just continuing the same old type of thing. People want new, fresh ideas.
IN: If you get elected how do you stop from becoming an insider yourself?
HILL: That’s going to be a battle. And I recognize that already. And I’ll share a game plan, it might be naive, but this is my game plan. First of all, you work hard; you don’t go to Tallahassee to have a good time. You go over there and you work hard, you study the issues. So, during the day, you hear from your constituents, not what Tallahassee is telling you is best, but what are the people back home telling you is best for them? And then at the end of the day you don’t go out carousing, you study, preparing for the next day. Then, at various times, you meet with likeminded people, of likeminded faith, to help strengthen your faith and your resolve. And then on weekends, come home and be with my family. That’s my strategy for not becoming an insider.