Politics & Policy

Freedom’s Feminists

An interview with Sydney Hay.

Many political pundits think Governor Sarah Palin is a one-of-a-kind woman for the GOP: a down-to-earth, conservative family woman who believes in limited government, low taxes, and personal responsibility. Yet Governor Palin isn’t the only female GOP candidate out there who shares Ronald Reagan’s vision of government.

I had the opportunity to chat with one such woman, Sydney Hay, who is running for the congressional seat in Arizona’s first congressional district, about matters of policy and the role that gender plays in politics today.

Carrie Lukas: Sydney, we often hear about the unique difficulties that women face in getting involved in politics. How did you make the decision to get involved?

Sydney Hay: Years ago, when I was a stayathome mom, I became greatly concerned about the country that my children would inherit. Being a mom does that to you. I was disturbed about the deficit spending that my children and grandchildren would someday have to pay off with higher taxes. I was troubled by the coarsening of the culture and alarmed about the continual loss of individual liberties.

These things drove me to decide that I had to get involved. What began as volunteering for conservative organizations and for strong candidates, turned into a very successful career in impacting public policy here in Arizona. I am running for Congress to continue to make a difference for the future of the country, for my children and grandchildren.

Lukas: Have you found that being a woman has played a role in your career particularly with politics?

Hay: One of the hats that I wear is President of the Arizona Mining Association, an industry that brings in over $5 billion dollars to the economy of Arizona and 7,500 direct jobs in the First District. When I began as an executive in the mining industry over 14 years ago, it was certainly male dominated. Politics is, too, to a lesser degree.

My perspective as a mother and grandmother helps me to communicate the economic impact of the mining industry in a way that brings it close to home.

I find it works that way on all the important economic and social issues we all face. On each and every issue position I take, I want to make sure the voters leave knowing the answer to this question for themselves: “How will this affect me and my family?”

Lukas: What made you decide to run for office?

Hay: Many Americans have paid a tremendous price for our liberty. Our founders hoped that we would make good use of it. For me, good use of it is running for Congress in the most beautiful District in America, with the Grand Canyon, Monument Valley, the red rocks of Sedona, gorgeous snow covered mountains, fertile fields, stunning deserts. It is the District where you can “Get Your Kicks on Route 66”, and “Stand on a Corner in Winslow Arizona.” (It is a fine sight to see — and there is a flatbed Ford there!)

I’m running to make government work better for all the families in my district and in the country. In fact, I’m not sure I’m running for Congress. I’m running for those who feel that Congress doesn’t represent their interests. So, I think it’s more accurate to say I am running against Congress to be a true advocate for limited government and unlimited opportunity; to believe the best about America and her future; to be a part of making our best days lay ahead.

Lukas: I understand that you led an effort to pass a constitutional amendment requiring a supermajority for tax increases in Arizona? Can you tell me about that?

Hay: After eight straight years of tax increases in Arizona, a group of friends joined an effort to say, “Enough!” We felt that our Government needed to live within its means, just like our families have to. Legislators are elected to make the tough budget decisions homemakers and small-business owners have to make every day, and we should not make it easy for them to go back to the taxpayers year after year. Together, we made it tougher to raise taxes and now we have not had an income tax increase in 15 years.

Arizona is currently experiencing one of the worst budget crises of any state, but it isn’t because taxes are too low. In fact, over the past six years, state spending has increased nearly seventy percent. Some are advocating increased property taxes and transportation tax increases, but that’s not the solution. Cutting spending is. Our effort to force fiscal restraint is especially important today. I’m proud to have led this effort.

Lukas: What about federal taxes? What do you think are most important changes that Congress can make to the tax code?

Hay: The federal tax code is a behemoth that must be completely overhauled. I favor switching to the Fair Tax, a national sales tax, but in the interim, I would gladly support a flatter, fairer income tax.

Of great concern is the massive tax increase that is looming if Congress doesn’t act soon. I led the team that ended the marriage penalty in Arizona. At the federal level, the marriage penalty will come back with a vengeance with Nancy Pelosi as Speaker as well as the death tax and others. This is wrong.

Lukas: I know education is another issue that you worked on a lot in Arizona. Can you tell me the focus of that work in the state?

Hay: Someday, when I look back on my life, one of my greatest joys will be that my heartfelt commitment to parental choice positively impacted the lives of tens of thousands of Arizona’s children. I led the legislative efforts with then businessman, and now congressman, Trent Franks which established Arizona as one of the leading states in the nation for empowering parents to choose the best education for their children through charter schools, individual and corporate tax credit scholarships for private schools, and vouchers for disabled and foster children. The results have been tremendous and have given Arizona’s families the educational choices that were desperately needed. Because of our success, Arizona continues to be a model for other states.

Lukas: How will your commitment to school choice translate into your job as a Member of Congress?

Hay: I firmly believe that policies that give parents a greater ability to choose their children’s educational future is vital to reforming our nation’s educational system. My commitment to school choice stems from my faith in my fellow Americans. I believe the best about America. Those who seek to impose solutions to local problems from on high with greater federal government control portray a lack of trust in parents, local school boards, and local teachers to know how best to educate our children.

This confidence I have in the American people transcends many issues. For instance, on gun rights, those who say we need gun control are really saying that their fellow Americans, law abiding citizens, can’t be trusted with guns, when in fact, it has been Americans, proficient in the safe use of firearms, who have protected our liberty since Lexington and Concord.

On economic issues, much of the massive growth in federal spending and the looming tax increases stem from a philosophy held by far too many in Washington, DC, that government knows how to better spend our money than we do. They are wrong.

My confidence that the American people are a good and noble people will be part of all that I do in Congress.

Lukas: It’s clear that you believe in what we often hear called the Reagan vision of government – the idea of a limited federal government focused on things like security and rule of law with a strong commitment to federalism. Do you think that there’s a unique challenge in articulating that vision to women?

Hay: A rancher came up to me at one of my campaign appearances and handed me a campaign contribution of one hundred dollars and said, “Sydney, I want you to promise me something. If I ever hear you call yourself a compassionate conservative, I want my hundred bucks back.” I enjoy telling this story to groups because it says a lot about how frustrated people are with the growth of government spending.

I believe women are naturally compassionate. We want the best for our children, our families, and our fellow citizens. We need to make it clear that a welfare state is not compatible with what some might term compassion. For far too long, compassion has been associated with funding. The federal government continues to throw money at problems, even if the program isn’t working, as if money is the answer to every problem. Voters understand that making more and more people dependent on government stifles creativity, inhibits self confidence, and takes away dignity. I’ve been traveling the district taking about this very topic and people understand the issues well. This is not hard to communicate to women.

Lukas: Sydney, thank you for taking the time to talk with me and best of luck to you.

– Carrie Lukas is the vice president of Independent Women’s Voice and a contributor to National Review Online. Sydney Hay is running for Representative of the Arizona’s 1st District.

Ramesh Ponnuru is a senior editor for National Review, a columnist for Bloomberg Opinion, a visiting fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, and a senior fellow at the National Review Institute.

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