MAINEVILLE, Ohio — Mike Gibbons, an investment banker from Cleveland, is one of six serious GOP candidates running for the U.S. Senate seat Rob Portman is retiring from this year.
Last week, Spectrum News followed Gibbons on the trail in Southwest Ohio to see, in-person, how he’s hoping his deep pockets, self-made story, and support for Donald Trump will make his second bid for Senate a success.
Before a rally with Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul in Maineville last week, Spectrum News Washington Bureau Reporter Taylor Popielarz conducted a sit-down interview with Gibbons on his campaign bus to gauge where he stands on various policy issues.
You can watch their full, unedited conversation or read the full transcript below:
Transcript from Jan. 14, 2022 interview:
Taylor: Mike, thanks so much for the time. So first off, for people who are just starting to pay attention to this race, what are three policies that you're advocating for that would improve the lives of Ohioans?
Mike: Well, I'm a small government conservative. I think the less government gets involved, the better off we all are. But I think I've got a lot of ideas for health care. I believe health care costs are too high and I think a lot of it has to do with a lack of competition and a lack of transparency. I think that we have a lot of wasteful spending in our government. I think we're spending far too much money. I think the consequence of that is the inflation we're seeing right now. The money that was doled out that was probably unnecessary in the second round of COVID aid is, I think, causing a lot of this inflation we're seeing. The problem is it's now slipped into a wage push inflation scenario, where you're seeing wages go up. When that happens, it has a tendency to not just go away through fed action, it’s going to have to be burned off. It's going to be pretty painful, I believe. So I think I would go to Washington and I would try to get the government to spend less money in every possible way I could.
Taylor: If you were elected senator, what specifically would you do to bring manufacturing jobs back to Ohio?
Mike: Well you know, well, I guess we've just made a pretty important announcement that Intel's going to locate in Ohio. It's going to be pretty beneficial to Ohioans. You know, having been around business my whole career, there's two things that I know create a better environment for business. The first is low taxes and the second is not a lot of useless regulation. And we have a lot of that in Ohio. We're the eighth most regulated state in the country. And speaking specifically of Ohio, we have a thing called a cat tax, which I think if you tried to figure out a tax that would impact business, particularly startups, negatively, you couldn't come up with a better tax. We tax on revenues, not on net income. It kills business in Ohio. Now, I'm not going to do anything about that as a US senator. But I would say that lower taxes, even at the federal level, are going to help, less regulation at the federal level and at the state level will help. And you will see jobs come to the state.
Taylor: Do you believe in climate change?
Mike: I believe the climate changes and it has been since the beginning of the earth.
Taylor: What types of policies would you push related to that if you are in the Senate? Or fight against?
Mike: Well, I'm not sure why we have a changing climate. I'm not sure if we're actually affecting climate change. But I know, probably 50% or more of the people in the United States believe that carbon dioxide is creating a problem. And the greenhouse effect. I don't believe that the solutions that are being offered are the way to get to lower carbon dioxide. We're all excited about electric vehicles, yet the power that's going to be used to drive those electric vehicles are still 40% produced by coal. You know, I frankly think that windmills and solar cells are not going to be the answer and we're going have to do better. We've ignored nuclear. I understand even the way left wing now is coming around on some of that. But the only real solution is to have a base-load capability. And we're not going to be able to get rid of oil and gas and coal until we have a base-load capability outside of windmills and solar panels.
Taylor: When it comes to lowering the national debt, I've heard you talk about wanting to do away with the Department of Education. What other cuts would you propose?
Mike: Well, I mean, I think there's wasteful spending — there's no program that I'm aware of, whether it works or doesn't work, that's ever shut down. You know, I think if we let the free market operate, the people that Democrats want to help the most will enjoy a much better life. This economy can create a lot of jobs. I think we're sending far too many people to college and coming away with degrees where they probably would have been a lot better off learning some skill where they could make a lot more money. I think it's misdirected. One of the proposals in the Build Back Better bill is to pay for community college for everybody. You know, a degree in some victimology major or even English literature from a community college — and I'm a big fan of learning English literature, don't get me wrong; and I don't have a problem with anybody advancing their education — but we need to train people to make a living. And I think pushing kids to college rather than some sort of learning some skill is a mistake.
Taylor: On the pandemic, you've said publicly that you got vaccinated against COVID-19.
Mike: I did.
Taylor: Have you been boosted?
Mike: No, but I've had COVID.
Taylor: When did you have it?
Mike: Over Christmas. Right in time for Christmas.
Taylor: This past?
Taylor: Okay. Were you okay?
Mike: It was a minor cold.
Taylor: Got it. What would you say, because I've seen press releases you've sent out and statements you've given. You've called vaccine mandates “authoritarian territory.”
Taylor: We know the numbers show the vaccines are effective. I checked Ohio's numbers yesterday, and in the last year 95% of the people who have died from COVID-19 were not fully vaccinated. What's your argument for not mandating something like that, especially when a ton of other vaccines are mandated for the military, for schools when you’re a kid?
Mike: Well my argument is the basis on which this country was founded. Our Constitution is the reason. It's a free country. Individuals have the right to make an assessment about their own personal life and whether or not they want a vaccine. Some people had valid reasons not to get a vaccine. I have doctor friends that are against vaccines. There's a lot of opinions out there. I think each individual, and I treat every individual as if they're an intelligent human being that can make their own decisions, I think each individual has to be able to make that decision for themselves.
Taylor: Based on that opinion, when people read your campaign website or see you speak, and you talk about the fact that you're pro-life, they might say, 'Isn't that a contradiction?' Why say it's not up to an individual’s choice for abortion, but it is for a vaccine? How do you explain that?
Mike: Well, I think it's a constitutional issue. Life is one of the things that we protect in this country. And I believe that life begins from conception. And that's my argument when it comes to abortion.
Taylor: On the southern border, I know you've talked about it being a crisis, there's obviously been problems down there.
Taylor: How would you as a senator propose fixing it? And securing it?
Mike: Well, I think Donald Trump had the only solution that really works. You can see on every video we see of people coming across the border, they're pouring in without anything stopping them. Once they enter this country, their case has to be handled by the judiciary. I think we need to finish the wall. And I think that's the easy, best step. I've seen studies and polling that show anywhere from 150 million to 750 million people in the world would like to move to the United States, which I find unusual that the left wing seems to think that this is a horrible country and we have to change it. But as it currently exists, that's too many people. And we should bring people in — I believe in granting asylum to our allies, to people that are oppressed for one reason or another. But coming here because you choose to have a better life economically can't be the reason we allow all those people into the country. The country cannot sustain that. And I'm about America first.
Taylor: Do you believe Dreamers should have a pathway to citizenship?
Mike: No. I think if you come here illegally, there should be no possibility of a path to citizenship. Now, I think for Dreamers, it could be a different set of criteria. Are they self-supporting? Have they not committed a crime? There could be another set. I'm perfectly willing to talk about that. But I don't think anybody that comes to this country should ever be allowed citizenship without getting back in line.
Taylor: A couple more topics real quick. You mentioned President Biden's Build Back Better Act earlier. Obviously it's stalled in the Senate right now. It doesn't look like it's going anywhere anytime soon. Certain things included in that bill include paid family leave, universal pre-K, expanding care for elderly, expanding the Child Tax Credit. What do you say to Ohioans who look at that list and they say, 'I like those programs. They could help me and my family out or they are.' Why would you be against those?
Mike: I believe if the free market is allowed to operate, and I believe that we lower regulations and we lower taxes, that those people will be able to afford those things on their own. I don't believe the government should be taking care of us from cradle to grave. I don't see that in the Constitution anywhere. We each have an opportunity to succeed in this country. And I'm a walking, talking example of somebody that started with nothing and achieved the American dream. And I think anybody that wants to work hard enough, and makes the right decisions, can achieve that. And, frankly, I don't need anybody to pay my family leave. And I don't need anybody to give me parental — a father's paternity vacation or whatever they call it. I think if a company wants to offer that as a benefit, that's up to them. But to mandate it only creates another level of dependence on the government, and I just don't believe in that.
Taylor: You’ve explained that you were against the bipartisan infrastructure bill that became law because you said America's broke and we couldn't afford more spending. Obviously, Sen. Rob Portman, who you're looking to succeed, helped write that bill. What do you say to Ohioans who say this is going to send hundreds of millions of dollars to us for roads and bridges, actual infrastructure, how could you justify being against it?
Mike: Well, if it's hundreds of millions coming to Ohio, that means it's hundreds of millions going to all the other states. The country is broke, it’s unsustainable. If this country reaches the point where nobody wants its debt anymore — we’ve seen the inflation taking its toll. And that inflation is going to hurt the very people the Democrats believe they're trying to help. I just don't believe that right now is the time to spend that money.
Taylor: I know we got to wrap up two final questions.
Mike: — By the way, I'm for infrastructure. I mean, I think infrastructure that's useful increases the efficiency of our country is great. Now is just not the right time. We just came through a pandemic where a lot of money was spent. We can see the effect of the spending on our inflationary environment. And believe me, inflation can be a lot worse than not having a road or bridge fixed right now.
Taylor: On the 2020 election, you've said and you've listed on your website that you believe there was fraud, that investigations need to take place. Do you believe as President Trump is still saying that the election was stolen? Yes or no?
Mike: I don't know what happened in the election. All I know is there are massive numbers of anomalies that there's no explanation for.
Taylor: Would you have voted to certify had you been a senator?
Mike: I’m not sure what I would have done because I would have probably had more opportunity to see the evidence that did exist. I haven't seen the evidence I would need to not certify, but I believe it could be out there. And everybody says there’s been 40 courts that have acted on this. Nobody has done the kind of investigation or forensic audit that's necessary to find out what actually happened. I believe that mail-in ballots are a license for fraud. I think that we need to eliminate mail-in ballots, and I think they have to be very few and far between. I don't think that giving everybody the option to vote from home is good. And in fact, there was a bipartisan commission that worked during 1992, I believe it was, where Jimmy Carter, I think, was the head of the commission where they actually said mail-in ballots are an invitation to fraud. And I don't know why everybody's forgotten that, but I haven't.
Taylor: Lastly, for you, you've poured a lot of your own money into this race. I've asked you about it before, you said you wanted to make sure you had a legitimate chance before you started asking for donations. What do you say to Ohioans who say over $11 million is a lot. Are you trying to buy this seat?
Mike: Well, I'm not sure if you can characterize what I'm trying to do as buy it. I'm doing this — I mean, obviously my children are going to inherit a lot less if I spend this much money in this campaign. I think I'm in a position right now where I say I have a good chance of winning, so I will be asking for people to make donations. But no, I'm not trying to buy it. I'm trying to put the country back on the right track so my kids have the same opportunity I had. Because I don't like where the left is going. I don't like large government. I think the government should be as small as we could possibly make it. I believe in personal freedom. And I believe that we should all have the opportunity — and I believe we do — to succeed as an individual.This country works because individuals succeed, and it helps everybody.
Taylor: Do you have a maximum for how much you'll spend on this race?
Mike: Depends on what happens.
Taylor: Thanks so much.
Mike: You bet.
End of interview.