The ‘Tea Party guy’
Joe Gilbert, a Republican candidate for New York’s 21st Congressional District, is the self-professed Tea Party favorite. He’s willing to prove that point by not mincing his words.
Gilbert was born and raised in Ogdensburg, where he attended high school at Ogdensburg Free Academy.
“I joined the Army right after high school,” Gilbert said.
Twenty-four hours after his graduation, to be exact.
During his time in the military, he served three tours in Iraq and was stationed in Kuwait during the Gulf War. His role in the military changed over the years from a tank officer to special operations and eventually he was trained in intelligence. He is currently self-employed in the crisis response field, helping local governments plan for disaster. He is the only military veteran in the Congress race.
His time in the military helped shape his political views, especially during the Cold War when he spent a five-year stint in Germany. There he saw a “visible difference” between socialism and capitalism in society. Gilbert believes America is headed down the socialist path.
“Everything was gray, and there was pollution,” he said. “Everyone was oppressed.”
The most important issue for Gilbert is the economy and jobs, but he said he’s not going to make bold promises about fixing the economy.
“Vote for me, and rainbows will come out of the sky and lollipops,” he said. “It’s not true.”
The message of gloom Gilbert sees for the future of the country and the North Country is of over-controlling government, in Washington, D.C., and Albany.
“The government is force, and that’s it,” he said.
Gilbert brands himself as the most free-market Republican in the race, believing less government interference in the economy creates more economic growth and jobs. He said his top priority is to get the government out of the way of North Country businesses and workers.
“It’s so hard to start a business in the North Country,” he said. “Regulations, taxes, they’re killing business.”
Gilbert is a former director of emergency services for St. Lawrence County from 2012 to 2013. He claims to have saved taxpayers $20,000 by cutting his budget in those years.
Unwilling to compromise
“There’s not many” Gilbert said, when asked about issues on which he would compromise with Democrats. “I am the Tea Party guy.”
Gilbert will soon be endorsed by the Constitution Party, according to Gary Gunsher, the chairman of the New York Constitution Party.
Gilbert said the Democratic Party agenda, along with go-along-to-get-along Republicans, are stealing wealth from the country’s young people through reckless budgeting.
Immigration reform and the Affordable Care Act were two issues he singled out that he would never compromise on. He wants to repeal the president’s health care law.
Gilbert said there were good qualities to Congressman Paul Ryan’s recent budget, which many see as a Republican prototype for future budget proposals. Overall he believes it did not go far enough, cutting the budget too slowly.
“It kicks the can down the road to 2024,” he said.
Gilbert is opposed to cuts made by Congress in military pensions.
Gilbert believes programs like Social Security and Medicare should be reformed.
“It doesn’t mean cut if off,” he said. “It means let people opt out.”
He believes young people should be allowed to chose whether or not they want to continue paying into the Social Security system.
Asked if his belief in supporting veterans with government benefits was then hypocritical, he responded it is because supporting veterans is within the Constitution and doesn’t compare to other forms of welfare.
“There’s a big difference from an illegal alien jumping the border or any other illegal immigrant,” he said. “There’s no comparison to that and to a veteran who honorably served.”
Gilbert said all elements of national power come first from a strong economy. He believes President Barack Obama’s foreign policy is creating a power vacuum, causing instability in the world.
He is opposed to a military intervention by the United States into the Syrian civil war. Gilbert is also critical of the handling of recent wars, saying there was not a clear definition of what victory was to look like in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.
Thoughts on Owens
Gilbert said he has met Congressman Bill Owens several times.
“He’s a nice guy, a guy you’d personally like,” Gilbert said. “But I do disagree with him on major policy problems.”
Namely, the Affordable Care Act and Owens’ support of immigration reform.
Gilbert is opposed to the National Security Agency spying on American citizens’ phone and email records.
“The NSA was created to do foreign intelligence, period,” he said. “It’s a violation of federal law and our Fourth Amendment rights.”
Gilbert said if the NSA wants to collect data on millions of Americans, it needs millions of search warrants for the process to be constitutional.
“Those who do it need to be held accountable,” he said. “I mean prison time. They need to go to jail.”