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Jack E. Robinson: Republican Rebel03:10

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It's been 37 years since Massachusetts voters sent a Republican to the U.S. Senate, but Jack E. Robinson wants to change that — again. He tried to unseat Sen. Edward M. Kennedy in 2000 and he's mounted two other unsuccessful campaigns for political office since then.

Robinson, the only black candidate in the Senate race, is an attorney who's worked as a top executive in the airline industry. He later founded a cell phone company and today he's general counsel for a company that offers health care and benefit packages to small businesses.

WBUR recently caught up with Robinson on the Boston Common between campaign events.

Deborah Becker: Many folks were surprised when you did file your papers at the end of October, in a very short campaign because we have this primary Dec. 8. Why did you decide, what was it that you said, 'OK, I'm going to run for this race'? Was it something you had to think about for a long time before you made up your mind?

Jack E. Robinson: I can tell you the exact moment I decided. It was one minute after the first Democratic debate ended. As soon as I saw that none of them had the answers to the problems we're facing, that's when I decided to throw my hat into the ring.

What answers do you think you have that they don't have?

They all want to raise taxes. That's the wrong thing to do in a recession. Ronald Reagan proved that, President Bush proved that. The only way to get out of a recession is to cut taxes, put more money in people's pockets so the people can start businesses, businesses can invest, hire people — that's how you create more jobs and get out of a recession.

Specifically, what are you going to do to try to stimulate economic growth and job creation?

My proposal is to eliminate the capital gains tax on all investments made in 2010. That will unleash trillions of dollars of new investment, millions of people will be put to work — we'll be out of the recession by the end of the year.

Can we afford that right now?

Absolutely. Tax cuts pay for themselves.

What about a federal stimulus package?

Bad idea. The only thing the stimulus has stimulated has been the government. What we need to stimulate is the private sector, so that the private sector can create jobs. Unfortunately, the only place we've had job creation in the last year has been in the government sector.

Abortion rights, where do you stand?

Well, I would never vote for a constitutional amendment to ban abortion, if that's what you're asking me, but personally I'm pro-life.

What if we go to health care, which the Senate just took up, and we look at that. Would you support the health care bill if it included abortion restrictions?

As long as no federal dollars are being used to fund abortions, I would not stand in the way of health care reform, although I disagree with the Senate bill for a lot of other reasons beside that.

What parts do you disagree with and where do you think compromise might have to be made in order to get that health care overhaul passed — or should it be passed?

Not the way they're doing it, it's the worst bill in history, as The Wall Street Journal said, and I agree. The only way to solve the health care problem, which is to provide universal coverage at low cost, is to increase competition, allow people to buy insurance policies across state lines.

The private sector, through competition, will lower cost and increase coverage, not a government public option.

If they took out the government-run public option, would that be enough?

That would be a big head start, but it wouldn't be enough, because there's still too many taxes and mandates.

Another issue that's before lawmakers right now and would be before the next state senator would be Afghanistan. Where do you stand on Afghanistan? I read that you do not support the war in Afghanistan right now, is that correct?

Well I think it's more fair to say that I support defining the mission. Before we decide how many troops we send over — if any — let's define what is our mission over there. I've suggested that we offer a ceasefire with peace talks in Paris that would include the Taliban.

What do you think, if you were in the Senate, you would try to do to work with some of the other members to work on consensus? If you were elected as a Republican senator, it would be something difficult for you because you'd be in the minority. So how would you try to overcome that and work with other members of Congress to achieve your objectives?

Well I've been in the minority all my life. Working with the majority has never been a problem for me. And as a progressive Republican, I can do a lot more for Massachusetts in the conservative Republican caucus than just sending another Democrat to Washington.

The state Republican Party has not endorsed your candidacy and the last time you ran for Senate against Ted Kennedy there was a flap with the state GOP and then-Gov. Paul Cellucci about whether the GOP was going to support your candidacy that time around.

There were various personal issues that were brought up — and I hope you're not concerned about talking to WBUR, because when you were talking to WBUR during 2000 there was the whole car accident issue at the time —

That's why we're standing on the Boston Common! (laughs)

But seriously, I wonder what you say to folks who say, is this campaign going to be more of the same?

Look, I've been a successful entrepreneur and businessperson and attorney for 25 years. I've created over a thousand jobs. What we need is someone in Washington who knows how to create jobs, knows how to cut taxes, has good ideas on health care reform — and that's me.

And I'll make my case to the people and we'll see what happens on Tuesday, Dec. 8.

You ran for Ted Kennedy's seat in 2000. What do you think you learned in that campaign that you might do differently, or do the same, this time around?

I think I learned, really, you need to define yourself and show people what you stand for, otherwise your opponents will do it for you.

How are you defining yourself right now?

I'm the only progressive Republican in the race.

Define a progressive Republican for me.

Teddy Roosevelt. I am a Teddy Roosevelt progressive Republican. I support equal rights for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender citizens. I also am in favor of making sure that we don't spend a lot of money unnecessarily.

We have $10 trillion, $12 trillion of debt already — going up to $20 trillion — a $1.3 trillion deficit, we need someone who has the fiscal conservative background, and the business background, as I do, to make sure we don't spend money unnecesssarily.

When you ran for this seat in 2000, you raised I believe it was $20,000, Teddy Kennedy raised almost $12 million; and when you ran for Congress in 2006, you raised $3,000, Steve Lynch raised $1 million. Those are wide discrepancies in terms of fund-raising. Why do you run for office?

Well, I'm running for office now because I have the solutions, I believe, to solve the problems we're facing. We got in the race late, as you know, we've only been in the race three weeks, we haven't done any fund-raising.

So I've been basically funding the campaign myself, I think it's important for me to do that. But right after the holiday, we're going into the home stretch, and we're not going to let up until the election.

This program aired on November 25, 2009.

Deborah Becker Twitter Host/Reporter
Deborah Becker is a senior correspondent and host at WBUR. Her reporting focuses on mental health, criminal justice and education.