LIMA, Ohio — Ahead of Election Day, Republican Congressman Jim Jordan spoke exclusively with Spectrum Washington bureau reporter Taylor Popielarz about his race against Democrat Shannon Freshour in the 4th District.
You can watch the full, uncut conversation above or read the full transcript below.
And you can watch the full report on the race in the 4th Congressional District by clicking here.
Taylor Popielarz: So I want to start off with a long question, but bear with me. So, you’ve been in Congress now for 13 years, you’ve been raising millions of dollars each quarter in the last year and two, you frequently meet with and you travel with President Trump, you’re the top Republican on a very powerful committee in the House, and your close friend and former colleague Mark Meadows is now the president’s chief of staff. Do you still consider yourself the outsider that you’ve long campaigned as?
Rep. Jim Jordan: I consider myself a guy who’s got the privilege of representing the families of the 4th District in the United States Congress. And you know, at this important moment in our country’s history, where the left is attacking people’s fundamental rights, fundamental liberties, my job hasn’t changed. My job is do what I told the voters I was going to do, fight for their First Amendment liberties, their Second Amendment liberties, fight for the things I told them I’d fight for — the things they care about. So, that doesn’t matter if I’m friends with the chief of staff or if I’m not friends with the chief of staff. That doesn’t matter if I’m the ranking member on the Judiciary Committee or the ranking member on the Oversight Committee, which I was, you know, a year ago. My job is my job. Do what you said you would do, fight for the things that matter, fight for the things you told the voters — the things they know that matter to them, their family and their community.
Taylor Popielarz: As you’ve been spending more time in Washington, just as your responsibilities there have increased, have you at all felt any more disconnected with your district?
Rep. Jim Jordan: No, I think they figured out we had like 163 different stops, visits, things we did in and across west central, north central Ohio, in our district. So — that’s even during the coronavirus. So, you know, your job is, you’re a representative. Your job is to represent the families and the taxpayers in your district. It’s kind of hard to do that if you can’t go talk to them. So we make sure we go talk to them. We do things like this. I was in St. Mary’s, Ohio all day yesterday, we were up in the northern part of our district on Monday. Tomorrow we’re in Bellefontaine and Champaign County and Shelby County. So it’s just what you do. I enjoy getting out and meeting the folks that, again, that I have the responsibility to represent.
Taylor Popielarz: It’s a big district, you have a lot of ground to cover. I watched your debate yesterday against Shannon Freshour in St. Mary’s. And one of the things that she said that caught my eye, she said you “never deal with the question of how it impacts the people of the 4th District.” She claimed that you’re obsessed just with your Fox News hits and with being on Air Force One. And she said you currently act as though you have a constituency of one, being the president. What’s your response to that?
Rep. Jim Jordan: No, I have a constituency of almost three quarters of a million people who live in the 4th District. That’s always been our constituency, and I think they care about their rights. I think they care when government is telling them — you’re seeing governments all across the country, other governors and mayors across the country, saying, ‘Oh, you can’t go to church, you can’t go to work, you can’t go to school, you can’t go to a loved one’s funeral, but you can protest, riot and loot all you want during this COVID-19 time that we find ourselves in.’ So I think voters appreciate that. I will tell you this, when we have events they’re the biggest — biggest number of people show up to different events, like tonight’s event; record crowds at things we’re doing. So I think people appreciate the fact that we’re fighting for them for their liberties. And remember, when you get sworn in as a member of Congress, first thing you do is take an oath to defend the Constitution. And when you see people who want to fundamentally change how our government operates, which is what the left wants to do, I think folks appreciate the fact that I’m trying to stop that effort from the left.
Taylor Popielarz: As I’ve been driving around your district, I’ve seen all the Trump signs. I know there’s a lot of support here for the president. I’m curious, though, when you’ve interacted with your constituents, has anyone ever come up to you and said, ‘Hey, Congressman, I love that you side with the president all the time. But is there ever anything the president could do to cross a line where you wouldn’t be able to support him?’
Rep. Jim Jordan: This president — the reason you see all of the Trump signs, and frankly, the reason you see so many people support the president, the reason I support the president, this president more than any other elected official I know has done what he said he would do. I mean, he said he was going to cut taxes, he cut taxes. He said he’s going to reduce regulations, he reduced regulations. He said we’re going to get our economy growing and humming and moving in a great direction. Before the coronavirus, it was tremendous and now it’s coming back. Lowest unemployment in 50 years, wages up for everyone, market up. He said he was going to get out of the Iran deal, out of the Iran deal. Said he was going to put the embassy in Jerusalem, put the embassy in Jerusalem. Said he was going to bring hostages home from North Korea, did that. Said he was going to do a new NAFTA agreement, did that. Said he was going put out a list of people he would choose to put on the highest court in the land, put out the list and then chose from the list. Gorsuch and Kavanaugh on the court. Then put out another list and chose from that list, and she’s going to — Justice Barrett’s going to be on the court in a matter of weeks. So this is a guy, more than any politician I’ve ever seen, who does exactly what he told the — said he was going to build a wall, built 350 miles of wall. I appreciate that. And so do the American people. It’s refreshing, it’s what you should have seen from elected officials before. But you see it so strongly from President Trump. I appreciate it. And the folks I represent, get the privilege to represent, appreciate it as well.
Taylor Popielarz: Is there anything though, that he could do, the president, to cross a line in your mind?
Rep. Jim Jordan: I like what the President’s done. I think it’s great. The American people like it. 63 million of us voted for him. And he has done a better job than we even — than I think people even anticipated by keeping his word. That’s why I think he’s going to win. I think he’s going to win our state big again. I think he’s going to get reelected. I think there’s a good chance it could break big for us in the end. And if he wins by a large margin, I think we’ll take back the House.
Taylor Popielarz: In your debate yesterday, and you alluded to this earlier, but something that you said that caught my eye, you said ‘I think we make the job of an elected official way too complicated. It’s pretty basic. What did you tell the folks you were going to do when you ran for the job?’ And as you say, follow through with that. And I heard you just list what you consider President Trump’s achievements. I’m curious, though, a couple issues that came to my mind. What about getting Mexico to pay for the wall or repealing and replacing the Affordable Care Act or getting the deficit down? Because you’ve aligned yourself with the president’s agenda, those things haven’t happened in the last couple of years.
Rep. Jim Jordan: Well, the Affordable Care Act was one person, John McCain, one Republican doing this [thumbs down] —
Taylor Popielarz: But it still didn’t happen.
Rep. Jim Jordan: — didn’t happen. But we had legislation that passed the House after a hard fought battle, which the Freedom Caucus, us conservatives, were right in the middle of. It did ultimately pass the House. Unfortunately, didn’t pass the Senate. We did repeal the individual mandate. There is a Supreme Court case on Obamacare. And I always remind folks, remember, if the Affordable Care Act was, as it’s named, so affordable, why is everyone’s health insurance up? I mean, if the Affordable Care Act was so great, you know, why’d they have to lie to us nine times get it passed? I remember the president, President Obama saying, if you like your plan, you can keep your plan, if you like your doctor, you can keep your doctor. He said premiums will decline. He said premiums will decline on average $2,500. He said deductibles will go down. Those are five things that are obviously false. He said emergency room visits would decline. They told us when they rolled it out that the website would work, the website was secure. Oh my goodness. And then of course, they told us the coops they created we’re going to be wonderful — every single one of them went bankrupt. So we do need to repeal it. We were there, we had it passed, but the Democrats wouldn’t help us. Democrats must like the system we’re in, which is driving up costs for Americans. We had a plan to address that, and unfortunately, it failed by one vote.
Taylor Popielarz: A couple more topics real quick — I know you got to get out there. Outside of the kind of D.C. drama of each day that when we’re in D.C. together I talk with you a lot about, when you’re back here, what would you say are your top two or three policy priorities that directly relate to your constituents?
Rep. Jim Jordan: Well, one is just constituent service. I mean, I think we get like forty some thousand contacts and things that we do, whether it’s dealing with Social Security issues, whether it’s passport issues, whether it’s just navigating the federal agencies. Our staff, I take great pride in the hard work they do every single day serving our constituents and helping them navigate the federal government and dealing with the things and the rules and the regulations they have to deal with. When I’m out and about talking with folks, they ask me about the same things I always talk about. They ask me about my work on the Oversight Committee and Judiciary Committee. They ask me about this investigation. They ask me — the number one question I get is when is somebody going to jail? When they are referring to what the FBI did when they conjured up this whole thing and went after the president and tried to take the president down, all based on a lie. And the American people now understand that. So I get asked about that a lot. And then, of course, just business questions. You know, right now, it’s tough. Our economy is roaring back here in west central Ohio, in north central Ohio, and it’s tough for employers to find people to work. I hear that every single day. I heard it today when I was at our event earlier today. So I hear about those things as well.
Taylor Popielarz: With the pandemic still going on, over 200,000 Americans have lost their lives to it, I’d ask this to any sitting member of Congress: Do you feel the federal government’s failure to respond to it is enough reason for a constituent to feel like you may not deserve to be reelected?
Rep. Jim Jordan: I think the federal government has responded. I think President Trump took decisive action early on when everyone else criticized him. When he decided to restrict travel from China, his opponent said he was xenophobic, Nancy Pelosi said this is crazy, don’t worry about it, you can travel, you can do all you want, there’s nothing to worry about. And this president said I think this is a concern, we’re going cut off travel from the place where this thing started —
Taylor Popielarz: Though it wasn’t completely cut off.
Rep. Jim Jordan: Travel was cut off —
Taylor Popielarz: — but thousands of people still came into the country.
Rep. Jim Jordan: They also quit sending the hard-earned tax dollars of the American people to the organization that lied to us, the World Health Organization. And a number of other — the things he did to try to help the hottest spot in the country, which was the New York area. Sent the ship up there, helped with ventilators, PPEs and everything else. I think this President has worked tirelessly to address something that no one saw coming, but has obviously impacted the families and individuals across our country in a serious way.
Taylor Popielarz: Do you feel Congress has failed at all in terms of responding to the pandemic?
Rep. Jim Jordan: I think the CARES Act — when I talk with folks, what we passed in March, largest spending package in history that conservatives supported because governments were telling small business owners and families you can’t engage in your livelihood, you can’t operate your business – it was almost like a takings under the Constitution. You had to compensate that, so we all supported that. And I get great response from constituents about the Paycheck Protection Program that helps small business owners, helped people get through the toughest part of this early on. So no, I think we responded in an unprecedented fashion.
Taylor Popielarz: Two more quick questions. I haven’t had a chance to speak with you about the Dr. Richard Strauss situation at Ohio State. I’ve read all the reporting. I’ve seen the interview you did with CNN a while back earlier this year. Present day, do you still believe that every former wrestler who has come out and said that you knew something is lying and doing so for political reasons?
Rep. Jim Jordan: Yeah. Yeah, I mean, look, every single coach has said the same thing I have. All kinds of other coaches in other sports said the same thing I have. And the reason they’ve all said that is because it’s the truth. Lots of athletes have said this is ridiculous. And the idea that I wouldn’t stand up and defend one of our athletes if I thought something wrong was happening to them is just ridiculous. I mean, I took on, I took on the IRS. I’ve taken on the FBI when they went after President Trump’s campaign. I stood up to the speaker of the house from our party, from my own state, John Boehner. I’m not afraid to take on a fight when I know something wrong is going on. But we didn’t know that this was happening. And every single coach has said the same thing that I’ve said.
Taylor Popielarz: And then lastly, looking past 2020, I’ve read rumors that you may be considering a run for Senate in 2022, which if Senator Portman was running for reelection, you would have to face him in the primary. Is that something you’ve considered at all?
Rep. Jim Jordan: No. I love the job I get to do — representing the families in the 4th District is what I want to do. And I’m running for it again. And they’ll get a chance to decide here in 27 days if they want to keep me in that job. But I like the opportunities I have to fight for the things that they care about, the things I think are important to our country, and particularly now as the guy who gets the privilege of being the top Republican on what I believe is, historically, in the House of Representatives, one of the most important committees, the House Judiciary Committee has this storied history of defending and protecting the Constitution and people’s rights. So I look forward to those responsibilities and hopefully we’ll get a chance to continue to do that job when the voters speak in 27 days.
Taylor Popielarz: Anything else you want to add?
Rep. Jim Jordan: All good.
Taylor Popielarz: Thanks, Congressman.
Rep. Jim Jordan: Thank you.