Sam Gaskins is official in his bid to be a U.S. congressman, having filed to run for 1st District representative Wednesday in Frankfort.
If no one else files as a Democrat for the seat, Gaskins is expected to face a familiar foe in 2018 in incumbent Rep. James Comer. Comer won that election in a landslide, but Gaskins did garner 27 percent of the vote.
This time, he believes he has what it takes to win and is better prepared for the long campaign ahead.
During a Friday interview Gaskins shared his thoughts on a number of issues currently facing the country, from North Korea to tax reform and even what he agrees with Comer about.
Gaskins said he believes, at this point, a diplomatic solution is best — that includes bringing in China, South Korea, Vietnam and even Russia into the mix. But, he was critical of the way President Donald Trump has handled Kim Jong Un.
“Our president needs to shut up,” Gaskins said in references to Trump’s rhetoric on North Korea, including comments about fire and fury.
As a veteran, Gaskins doesn’t believe there should be troops on the ground, saying they are stretched thin as it is; however, he said if Kim Jong Un continues on his path, and the growing rhetoric between him and Trump continue, he’s afraid troops on the grown will be a reality.
Gaskins has a copy of the Second Amendment on his wall at home. He’s said on countless occasions he’s a strong supporter of gun rights and owns several himself. But he acknowledges mass shootings are a problem in the country and thinks the best solution right now is both sides coming together and using common sense.
For him, common sense looks like getting rid of Trump’s executive order that allowed mentally ill individuals to be able to purchase weapons. That order was a rollback an order from the Obama Administration. It also means closing the gun show loophole. Gaskins believes a background check, which takes about five minutes, should be conducted when someone registers online, or the day of the event as they wait to get in.
“It’s an easy fix,” he said.
As far as assault weapons, Gaskins said he owns one himself and enjoys shooting as a hobby. He did acknowledge that anyone buying large numbers of weapons that hold 30-plus rounds of ammunition should set off red flags. It’s simply not something the average gun owner needs for a hobby or hunting.
“If you need more than 30 rounds to kill a deer, you don’t need to be hunting,” he said.
He referenced the Sutherland Springs, Texas, shooting and said databases between the federal government and military need to be combined so something like that never happens again. The shooter, he said, should have never been able to purchase a weapon based on his history.
But, Gaskins says he’s not naive — he knows no law will keep every potential criminal from getting guns, but he thinks the government should at least make it a little harder for people who shouldn’t have weapons. Ultimately, he believes that extreme arguments on both sides are what is hurting the country, on the gun issue and other issues.
Tax reform is something that needs to happen, according to Gaskins, but his opinion on the current bill that recently passed the U.S. House is that it is “ridiculous.”
He believes legislators needs to fix the tax code, all together. He referenced President Dwight Eisenhower’s and how the corporate tax rate in his administration was 90 percent. However, businesses and the country flourished during that time, Gaskins said, even creating the interstate system. The key to that plan was to provide incentives and deductions to businesses, rather than just lowering their tax rate. Those deductions included salary and benefit for employees, new buildings, insurance and job creating, he said.
“What we’re doing isn’t working,” he said. “The super polarization has caused more problems than it solved.”
The new bill still allows businesses to take their operations overseas, but cuts critical deductions for teachers who buy school supplies for their students, according to Gaskins.
Gaskins has said many times he believes a single-payer system, like in other countries, is the only way to solve the country’s problem with rising health care costs. As long as competing health care companies are involved, he believes the prices will keep rising. But, whether it’s what is currently happening to health care under the Trump administration or the Affordable Care Act under President Obama, the system needs a full overhaul.
When asked what he agrees with Comer about, Gaskins pointed to Comer’s Equal’s Act. He said, as of right now, and what he understood about the bill, it’s something he could get behind and support. The act would extend the probationary period for federal workers from one year to two years in an effort to help managers find good people for federal positions. Gaskins said he understood the motivation behind it and the bureaucracy and difficulty of trying to get rid of federal employees performing poorly.
Gaskins had a simple message for any legislator with credible allegations of sexual misconduct, from sexual harassment to sexual abuse and rape, to include Alabama Senate hopeful Roy Moore to Sen. Al Franken, D-Minnesota.
“Pack your bags and go home,” he said.
Gaskins has faced some skepticism from his own party if he has what it takes to run a successful campaign for congress this go ‘round. He admits he understands their concerns. In the last election, he was self-funding and didn’t raise a lot of money. It’s valid concern, he said, but noted he’s more prepared this time.
“The problem is, they don’t understand the people that I talk to everyday,” he said. “They don’t see when I sit in the cafe or sit down and have a beer with someone, the heartache people are going through.”
Gaskins said he’s had encouragement from people in Frankfort, has acquired more campaign staff and volunteers and is in it for the long haul. He feels confident in being able to reach people in every county of the district and his abilities to connect with people and hear them in ways they aren’t being heard.
“These are people’s lives,” he said. “They’re hurting and they feel like no one wants to care for them.”
If elected, Gaskins promised he will continue listening and that he’ll put aside his own beliefs and vote based on the needs and beliefs of his constituents — Democrats and Republicans.
“When I beat (Comer) this time, I no longer have a say, the voters do,” he said. “Right now, people don’t feel like they are being heard.