CINCINNATI, Ohio — As November’s midterm elections approach, Republican Rep. Steve Chabot spoke exclusively with Spectrum News about his race against Democrat Greg Landsman in Ohio’s 1st District.
A full, uncut conversation can be watched above or the full transcript can be read below. This interview took place on Aug. 24, 2022.
The full report on the race in the 1st Congressional District can be watched by clicking here.
Taylor Popielarz: You’ve obviously run for election many times over. This cycle, what’s your pitch to voters about why you deserve to keep the job?
Rep. Steve Chabot: Well, unfortunately, Nancy Pelosi’s policies, along with the Biden administration, have done a lot of damage to the country. We need to fix that damage. We need to reverse a lot of things. For example, we were energy independent, had very low gas prices. Principally, I think, because of the administration’s policies in discouraging energy production in this country, we’ve seen the prices just spike. They’ve come down a little bit lately, but they are still a lot higher than they ought to be. That’s had an inflationary impact. That, plus all the excessive spending that we’ve seen, and that’s why inflation is so high, at 40-year highs. That’s hurting a lot of people in my district right here in Cincinnati, especially middle class folks who just really can’t afford this. So, we need to reverse those policies. The things that I stand for, I believe, would reverse those policies and that’s why I hope that people will reelect me once again this time.
Taylor Popielarz: What is the top issue facing the district right now? Is it inflation? Is it something else?
Rep. Steve Chabot: I think it’s inflation and the economy, and how people are really being hurt by the left’s policies. And unfortunately, a lot of what we’re going through, the suffering that the people are going through right now is, is self-imposed. You know, we didn’t have to become dependent on Saudi Arabia and Venezuela and other countries. That didn’t have to happen. But this was intentional policies by this administration and we really do need to reverse that. And I think, for example, hiring another 87,000 IRS agents, which my opponent supports, for example. He supports all of Nancy Pelosi’s policies, as far as I know. In fact, not only does he support her policies, he used to work for. So that’s not the direction I think that the people in this district want to go.
Taylor Popielarz: When constituents look at this race and they see you, they’re probably familiar with you because you’ve been in office for a while, and they look at your opponent and they say, OK, city councilman, he’s held elected office as well. What’s your summation of why you’re right for the job, he’s wrong for it?
Rep. Steve Chabot: Well, I think people can look at my record and how I’ve stood up for the people of this community. For example, when COVID hit, I was the lead Republican on the Small Business Committee, and we worked in a bipartisan manner with Democrats—even though I’m a Republican, I’ve always worked with people of the other party. And so, we got the PPP program. In our district, for example, we saved more jobs, about 157,000 jobs, in this district. We received more PPP loans; it was over 27,000. And we got more money, about $3 billion, in this district than any other congressional district in Ohio. So, I always work with the other side and try to do the best thing for both the people of this district and the country. My opponent is pretty much on the left on everything. He’s criticized me periodically for things that have been really wrong, just flat out wrong, untruthful. But it’s not surprising that he would have trouble with the truth. When you look at— basically as a member of Cincinnati City Council, that he was involved with basically a criminal conspiracy—that he and other members of city council decided that they were going to not follow or violate Ohio’s open records laws and the judge that handled this case said that Mr. Landsman and his associates not only should resign, but they lied, people shouldn’t trust him, and he should never run for office again. Well, he’s now decided to run for Congress.
Taylor Popielarz: I did ask him about that. He says he’s apologized for what he’s done wrong. He acknowledges that there were mistakes made, so that’s how he’s been responding, just for the record.
Rep. Steve Chabot: There were certainly mistakes made.
Taylor Popielarz: You voted last year against the bipartisan infrastructure bill. And you and I had spoken many times about the Brent Spence Bridge, Western Hills Viaduct, the need for infrastructure funding to come to this area. Earlier this year, you wrote a letter of support for the federal grant application to get funds from that infrastructure bill to help the Brent Spence Bridge project.
Rep. Steve Chabot: Absolutely. Absolutely.
Taylor Popielarz: For your constituents who look at that original vote, and then the fact that now you’re asking for money from a bill you voted against to come here, how do you explain that?
Rep. Steve Chabot: I’ve always supported infrastructure. Our infrastructure absolutely needs to be improved, not only in our community, but all over the country. In the previous transportation bill, for example, we had money in there for the Brent Spence Bridge. We’ve gotten about $56 million over the years to plan for the project, to get things done. Unfortunately, Pelosi being Pelosi and being completely partisan in the House, they had a bill, which essentially was a pathway to what we just got recently, the so-called Build Back Better or I would call it Biden’s Bad Bill. They didn’t pass the whole thing, but they were able to cram this thing through. That’s the one that has, for example, another 87,000 IRS employees to go after mostly middle class folks. They act like it’s only going to be rich people, but this is what that bill, that my opponent criticizes me for not supporting—87,000 new IRS agents, I think that’s about the last thing that we need. When legislation passes, it’s your responsibility as a member of Congress to do everything within your power to make sure that your district gets as much help as they possibly can and the Brent Spence Bridge is a long-term project that we need to get done. No question about that. And I support it.
Taylor Popielarz: Couldn’t you argue, or could a constituent argue, that the infrastructure bill was something Senator Rob Portman, you know, a tried-and-true conservative, helped write? There were other Ohio House Republicans who voted for it. And a constituent could say there was more good in it than bad, how could you justify it, especially when the bridge in our backyard was kind of the poster child for why it was necessary?
Rep. Steve Chabot: That’s the kind of decision that every member of Congress has to make. I always decide what I think is in the best interest of the people in my district and the country, and I made this decision on that basis as well. The other real problem in that bill was the fact that it was loaded up with a lot of Green New Deal stuff, a lot of spending, which was unnecessary, over the top. Fortunately, we can do a lot of things, I think, to improve that. But it’s going to take another Congress. And that’s why I’m so hopeful that Nancy Pelosi will not be Speaker anymore after this election cycle because her policies have been just devastating for this country.
Taylor Popielarz: Will you support Kevin McCarthy for Speaker if Republicans win back the House?
Rep. Steve Chabot: I’ll certainly support whoever the Republican leader is that we come up with, but that’s an internal matter for Republicans to decide after the election.
Taylor Popielarz: On January 6, 2021, after the Capitol was attacked, you ended up objecting to certifying the votes in Pennsylvania? Why?
Rep. Steve Chabot: Well, essentially, what happened in Pennsylvania is that, what was occurring by elected officials—yes, it was the Secretary of State—but under the United States Constitution, it’s the state legislature that’s supposed to make changes in election laws. And that wasn’t happening in Pennsylvania. And in my view, I couldn’t in good faith support certifying that election when it wasn’t done according to the Constitution. Arizona was the other state that we also looked at, that Congress looked at, and I made the determination there that there were irregularities, but not sufficient, that I would not certify that. So, I voted to certify one and not the other. It’s not unlike what happened in the previous two election cycles where Republicans had been elected and they were objected to by Democrats. So that’s not at all an unusual thing for one party to object to the previous party’s election, if there are irregularities. I felt there were irregularities.
Taylor Popielarz: I’ve spoken with some of your constituents. Some have reached out to me on social media or by email, and they’ve said, knowing I was going to come speak with you, ask him why he was still willing to object after the attack happened. Clearly, yes, objections have happened previously, but supporters of one of the candidates didn’t come and break through the building, so how do you explain that?
Rep. Steve Chabot: Yeah, I condemned the attack on the Capitol building, the riot, I still do. I think people that acted inappropriately, particularly that were leaders or committed criminal acts, they should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law, and that is occurring. But that doesn’t change the fact that in Pennsylvania, in particular, there were unconstitutional actions which took place there and I didn’t think in good faith that we could certify those electors.
Taylor Popielarz: I read your blog a lot, I enjoy your posts. And I looked back to the post that you put out earlier that day, on January 6, before the attack, before the vote. And you wrote, “I do believe that there was fraud and irregularities in a number of states. Whether it was enough to make the difference in the election, I don’t know.” Do you now know? Has enough information come in that you could say definitively, yes, the election was stolen, as Donald Trump keeps saying? Or no, it was not?
Rep. Steve Chabot: Well, certainly Joe Biden is president. And I think that the real question and the real problem here is that, for example, in this last election, the 2020 election, a lot of Republicans think that the election was stolen, just as in the previous election in 2016, a lot of Democrats thought that. So, we in a bipartisan manner, Republicans and Democrats in Congress need to work together to make sure that we do have legitimate elections where there aren’t all these irregularities. Now, some of that had to do with COVID and so many ballots being sent out. And you had ballot harvesting, for example, in California and a few other states. So, there were a lot of things which really do need to be fixed so that everybody, Republicans, Democrats, Independents, we all know that the election is as solid as it can possibly be.
Taylor Popielarz: Do you think it was stolen in 2020, though? Because Donald Trump endorsed you for reelection, I know you’ve welcomed his support. He’s kind of used it now as a litmus test, that you have to agree with him that it was stolen in order to stay on his good side. So, do you?
Rep. Steve Chabot: That’s not a term that I’ve ever used, but I do think that there were irregularities in that election cycle.
Taylor Popielarz: This is the first time the 1st District will include the entire city of Cincinnati, after redistricting took place. Your opponent, who I spoke with just yesterday, he thinks that will help him, especially because he’s a current city councilman. He’s kind of well-known throughout the whole city. There are more Democratic votes there. Do you think it will help him? Is it a challenge for you?
Rep. Steve Chabot: Well, certainly the district is now a bit more challenging; it went from a three-point Trump to a nine-point Biden district. But this guy is just so far to the left that it’s hard to believe the people of this district would ever elect this guy. I mean, essentially, he was the guy on city council that tried to defund the police to the tune of $200,000. He’s the guy that not only agrees with all of Nancy Pelosi’s left-wing policies, as I said, he used to work for her. He’s the guy that was involved in a criminal conspiracy at city hall that the judge said he should never run for office again. So, I just don’t think the people of this district are going to elect somebody like that. And they know where I’m at on the issues. They know how hard I work to make sure that they are able to get a job here, that you’re able to raise your family in a community where you don’t have to worry about crime, as you do in some other communities. Now, that is jeopardized when you have policies, unfortunately, at the national level that are encouraging behavior that leads to higher crime. So that’s something we absolutely have to work on.
Taylor Popielarz: On the defund the police topic, I’ve seen what you’ve said about your opponent on that, and I read up on it so I could get a good understanding of it. He did call for taking $200,000 from the police budget to fund a police accountability program called the citizen complaint authority. This was in 2020. That program eventually got the funding, but separate from the police budget, and Greg Landsman did support funding a second recruit class of officers this year. And since he entered the council in 2017, he has voted multiple times to increase the city’s police budget. I bring all of that up to ask you, do you think it’s still fair and accurate to say he’s calling for defunding the police when the record shows he has voted to increase funding, increase the recruiting class?
Rep. Steve Chabot: It’s absolutely fair. This is the guy that voted—he’s actually the guy that offered a proposal, an ordinance at city hall, to take $200,000, as you said, out of the police department. To be in favor of defunding the police, you don’t have to be in favor of defunding the entire department. We never made that allegation. But when you’re giving that money, essentially, to the organization that’s going after police officers, I don’t think that’s an appropriate thing to do. And you notice that the FOP, the police, endorsed me and not him.
Taylor Popielarz: You’re nearing the 30-year mark for how long you’ve been in Congress. When you meet constituents who say, Steve, you’re a great guy, I really like you, but I’m for term limits. I don’t want a career politician. I think it’s time for a fresh start. What’s your response to that?
Rep. Steve Chabot: I’m for term limits. I endorsed those. I’ve actually voted for them every opportunity we’ve had. But unless you term limit all members of Congress, you’re putting your particular district at a disadvantage when people self-term limit themselves. I’ve never done that. And that’s why the people have continued to elect me here.
Taylor Popielarz: And then lastly, your opponent—I asked him about your seniority on Capitol Hill, the fact that you’ve held high-ranking positions on committees, you’ve chaired them, you’ve been ranking member, and that that yields a lot of influence into how things actually get done on the Hill. He argues that you’ve been in office for so long that you’ve just become kind of a rubber stamp for your party, and that you’ll do whatever they ask. What’s your response to that criticism?
Rep. Steve Chabot: Well, it’s the same kind of thing that previous opponents that I’ve defeated in race after race after race say. It’s just not true. There are two universities, University of Virginia and Vanderbilt, that have done three studies over the last decade trying to determine who are the most effective members of Congress, and I’ve come in in the top 10 on the Republican side in all of those. And you’re talking, that’s 200 or so Republicans, 435 Members of Congress. And the reason that I’ve been determined—to make sure that our district is represented well, and that we’ve done so well in those—is because I actually reach out to Democrats, even though I’m a Republican and a conservative Republican at that. The best way to get things done in Congress is to reach across the aisle. And when I offer legislation, I almost always get a Democrat to be a lead sponsor with me. Rarely, I can’t get a Democrat because the legislation is too conservative, so you can’t get any. But I always try to get one, and you may have to compromise some. But we’ve gotten a lot of legislation passed over the years and that’s why, because I work with Democrats and the legislation is common sense stuff, which actually helps the people of my district and people across the country.
Taylor Popielarz: If you do keep winning, do you have a personal cut-off period for when you would want to leave Congress?
Rep. Steve Chabot: No, I haven’t set a particular time. I think I’m very effective for the people of this community and have been for quite some time now. I’m not going to run forever. But I certainly hope to win this election and to serve another term, and we’ll see from there.
Taylor Popielarz: Alright, we covered a lot. Thanks a lot.
Rep. Steve Chabot: Thank you, Taylor.
Taylor Popielarz: Appreciate it.