Former state lawmaker Chris Herrod made headlines this year after he pulled off an upset win at the Utah GOP’s special nominating convention for the 3rd Congressional District. After several years on the political sidelines, the 51-year-old Republican is hoping to re-enter the fray, and is locked in a competitive race for Jason Chaffetz's seat. On the trail, Herrod has emphasized his conservative record and international experience of teaching in Ukraine for several years.
I sat down with Herrod in the studio for the last in our series of interviews with the 3rd District candidates. I began by asking him about his decision to challenge Sen. Orrin Hatch back in 2012 and what he’s learned from political defeat.
Below are excerpts of our interview.
Herrod: I think that was probably delusions of grandeur to go after — that's a pretty big thing to do. You know Sen. Lee had done it the year before. But Sen. Hatch had a big war chest and you know that's that. But this is...an open seat. You know, one of the news organizations gave me a 3 percent chance of winning convention and those that know me know that I smile — I'm a nice guy — but I do have a very competitive side. I was actually ranked at that one time no. 1 in the nation for fencing. And so I have that competitive nature, and so... sometimes it's not bad to be under-rated.
[That way] people focus their attention on somebody else and I was able to do that. You know, if I'm honest, I probably gave one of the best speeches of my life at convention as well. And so those are things that helped me get through that convention.
Q: Let's pivot to health care for a minute. ...I think the most recent poll, it was a Washington Post-ABC poll, showed that people prefer Obamacare by a 2-to-1 margin over the current Republican plan. And even among Republicans polled, only about 43 percent said they preferred their party's plan. So do you support any of the Republican proposals that have come out so far and why do you think they've been so unpopular?
Herrod: I wouldn't support it without Sen. Lee's and Sen. Cruz's [Consumer Freedom Amendment]. And you have to preserve the free market part of health care. This is one of the things that I brought to this debate is you know, for me, socialized medicine is not theoretical. I've lived under it. I lived under it in Sweden in Vienna and then in the former Soviet Union. And I can give you a horror story after horror story of socialized medicine. But to think that that's a direction that we want to go....You know for me the most poignant comments that somebody made is you know — this was somebody that didn't make a whole lot of money but they made more than what they would qualify for Medicaid — and they liked having their free market choices of health care. But because of all the things that have been added to Obamacare it has pushed a good middle class plan out of their reach.
And that's part of the problem that we have is we don't have competitive forces. I'm a big believer in high-deductible plans with HSAs [Health Savings Accounts]. Because you look at the part of medical that has had the best cost containment, it's that where, frankly, insurance hasn't been involved or Obamacare hasn't touched. So you need to bring some of those free market competitions back.
Q: During your campaign, you've cited your international experience in the former USSR, and I have to ask if you're worried about the current special investigation into Russian meddling in the election, especially in light of Donald Trump Jr.'s e-mails confirming that it was Russia's intention to aid his campaign?
Herrod: People are tired, at least that I found, tired of talking about Trump and the collusion argument. ...You know, my in-laws — my my wife's parents — had their windows blown out two years ago on Christmas Eve from a Russian separatist bomb. So we're no fans of Putin. Let me make that very clear. But Putin is a chess player and I think...he's outplaying right now the press, the Democrats, and actually, frankly, some Republicans. Because as long as we're talking about collusion, we're not talking about health care reform, we're not talking about tax reform, we're not talking about Russia really has invaded Ukraine.
Now as far as the issue of meddling, then you have to break meddling into 'Did they meddle through propaganda?' ...Some people think the press meddles through propaganda. You know, so you have to separate that from when they try to break into machines and change votes. That's to me that's a whole different level. And so those are the things that we need to go after with sanctions and things like that.
But I don't think the issue of collusion or even, you mentioned Donald Jr's meeting, that's getting it, is how many times have I ever gone to a meeting and not knowing what we're going to talk about. How can you be held accountable before you go to a meeting about what came up after the fact.
Q: To play devil's advocate, in the e-mail it did mention that this is part of the Russian effort to aid [Trump's] campaign. ...Do you feel that was appropriate to take that meeting?
Herrod: Well, that's where I think that's where the naivety of sometimes ... the Trumps were probably a little bit naive.