By Zayida Baker

Rep. Steve Southerland, R-Fla., walked October 22 in Perry’s annual Forest Day Parade. Dressed in jeans, he ran from one side of the crowd to the other, chatting and shaking hands. That afternoon Southerland spoke with Zayida Baker of Tea Party Patriots.

Find more of the interview here and here.

ZAYIDA BAKER: Do you think you’re going to endorse anyone in [the Republican Senate] primary [to take on Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., in 2012]?

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EDITOR’S NOTE _ Southerland’s comments preceded the supercommittee’s failure to agree on cuts by the Nov. 23, 2011, deadline, triggering $1.2 trillion in mandatory cuts January 2013, unless Congress passes a third option. Thus, Southerland’s opinion of a third option, given below, is very relevant.
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STEVE SOUTHERLAND: . . . I’m involved right now in the most difficult election of my career. Your first reelect is always your most important, always your most difficult. We’ve fielded some really good guys. . . . . I haven’t had time, and I don’t even know if I’ll have an opportunity to really delve into their race right now because I’m so focused on ours. . . .

ZB: How is [your campaign] going for you?

SS: It’s good. We are very pleased with the feedback we’re getting. . . . We’ll poll in January to try to get an idea of how we’re doing. But you do have certain indications—when you do a parade route, and [you see] the warmth of the crowd, and the reception of the crowd; [we got] not a negative comment today. I’ve shaken the hands of, I’ve had interactions today with hundreds upon hundreds of people: not a single negative reaction. . . . I just can’t help but think that people appreciate our standing up for what we believe, doing what we said we were going to do when we ran.

ZB: Well, the memory of [former Democrat Rep. Allen] Boyd is fresh in their minds.

SS: That’s a novel idea—just do what you say you’re going to do. And so this year is going to be tougher because a lot of the electorate last year was anti-Boyd; this year we need it to be pro-Steve. . . . You’ve got a voting record, so you’ve upset somebody. . . . [But] I think people appreciate the fact that we’re standing on our principle, and if I disagree with my own leadership, I disagree with my own leadership. I’m not up there to further a career in leadership. I’m there to represent my district and to vote in the way that they would want me to vote.

ZB: Regarding this supercommittee [created in August by the deal to raise the debt ceiling, the Budget Control Act], . . . some members of Congress have said that . . . if for some reason this committee doesn’t agree, they will seek to override the [$1.2 trillion in automatic spending cuts]. What do you think about that?

SS: I didn’t vote for the bill, so I didn’t vote to create a supercommittee. We have a supercommittee, when we have 535 members of Congress in the House and the Senate representing 308 million people. . . . So I didn’t feel that my constituents were interested in me giving their voting card to 12 other members of Congress that don’t represent them. . . . I was uncomfortable with the concept of . . . forfeiting my input, and so I didn’t vote for it. And I wasn’t going to, in spite of what the Democrats want to claim, that all the Republicans want to end Medicare. My vote proved that those claims were fraudulent. . . . I don’t know if there’s going to be a third [option]; I would be interested in a third [option], because I wasn’t happy with the bill. . . . That deal cut government spending $7 billion in the first year. That’s about six hours of federal spending. There’s an iceberg coming, drawing closer to the hull of our ship, and $7 billion this year is not enough to divert the iceberg. . . .

Ray Carlile, head of the O’Brien Tea Party, has called Southerland “a gem” and seems to think Southerland’s actions speak louder than his words: “Southerland was not a politician. He may start to sound like he is one. Every time I hear him talk, he sounds like he’s a politician, but still, he’s doing what he said he would do, as far as I can see. And he’s doing what I would consider to be the right thing to do, as far as I can see.”

You may wish to contact
Rep. Southerland: (202) 225-5235

Zayida Baker covers Rep. Steve Southerland and Sen. Bill Nelson for Tea Party Patriots’ Government Accountability Project. She can be reached at zayida.baker@tppjournalism.org.