As a political commentator, I find there is something three-dimensional about having an old friend announce his congressional bid. It’s like watching a high-speed chase on TV when, suddenly, the bandits zoom past your front door, and the cops speed closely behind. The distant story instantly becomes reality — right before your eyes.
I felt this way last week when I read an article by NRO contributor Quin Hillyer. In it, my fellow political commentator threw his metaphor into the ring and began running for Alabama’s First District House seat.
“I am a constitutional conservative — and an ‘opportunity society’ conservative as well, hearkening back to the Reagan-Kemp era of prosperity and liberty,” Hillyer told his American Spectator readers in a farewell essay. “Free men and women, with free minds, in a free market, produce abundance and a vibrant society.”
Hillyer will contest the Republican primary for a special election after six-term GOP congressman Jo Bonner resigns August 15 and joins the University of Alabama.
Hillyer’s victory would be superb for Alabama, the free-market movement, and the republic at large.
I met Quin on our second day as freshmen floor mates at Georgetown University in August 1982. Since then, we have communicated in person, by phone, or e-mail almost daily, regarding virtually every newsworthy issue and controversy. We stood shoulder to shoulder through battles, defeats, and triumphs in College Republicans, Young Americans for Freedom, and other conservative organizations. We attended the 1984 GOP Convention together and cheered as Ronald Reagan was renominated. We have aligned our keyboards time and again to limit government and stymie those who expand it.
I also can thank Hillyer, a New Orleans native, for introducing me to his birthplace in 1984. The Big Easy is one of my strongest addictions. Across some 25 much-appreciated visits, it has added joy to my heart and subtracted months from my life expectancy. As they say down there: “We put the FUN in funeral.”
Hillyer comes highly recommended by his closest colleagues.
“Quin is well prepared on the issues,” says former representative Robert Livingston (R., Louisiana). Hillyer was Livingston’s press secretary from 1991 to 1997, both in his personal office and when he chaired the House Appropriations Committee. “Quin has a name in Mobile, and his conservative credentials are superlative. He understands the process and has wanted to run for several years.” Livingston added: “Quin is a thoughtful conservative who can help the hard core think before they leap. If he wins, I believe he will be a positive addition.”
After serving on Capitol Hill, Hillyer wrote editorials and columns for Alabama’s Mobile Press-Register for eight years, then for the Washington Examiner and the Washington Times before returning in 2011 to Mobile, his wife’s hometown. He left an especially deep impression at The American Spectator, for which he wrote until launching his candidacy.
“Quin could not be better prepared for the race,” The American Spectator’s editor, R. Emmett Tyrrell Jr., tells me. “He has written with clarity for decades on public problems and honed his principles over the years. He is as fit for office as Margaret Thatcher.”
Tyrrell adds: “Hillyer has stood by politicians under fire such as Bob Livingston, so he understands the pressure that faces politicians — and the temptations. He is a proven pol with a lot more thoughtfulness than most pols. Yes, he has the common touch but also an elevated sense of calling to the life of politics. He thinks of it as a responsibility, not as an occasion for perks and riches. He would be an asset to the House of Representatives because of all these assets.”
The Weekly Standard’s Bill Kristol observes that “there will undoubtedly be other candidates for the GOP nomination in this strongly Republican district, and some of them will surely be well qualified. But I feel confident in saying now that none is likely to be able to contribute more to the conservative future as a member of Congress than Quin Hillyer.”
“I’ve gotten to know Quin over the last few years and have been enormously impressed with his willingness to advance the conservative cause fearlessly and without hesitation,” said 2012 GOP presidential contender and former U.S. senator Rick Santorum (R., Pennsylvania) in a formal endorsement. “As a critic of Washington business-as-usual, Quin will bring to Congress that same courageous approach as an advocate for free markets, limited government, and reform of the welfare and tax system.”
While Hillyer agrees with social conservatives on most topics, he avoids the public religiosity that can make some libertarians jumpy. Without disparaging traditionalists, Hillyer stresses the pro-growth ideas that unite, rather than divide, the GOP’s competing wings. Hillyer also appreciates America’s place in the world and the fact that strength tends to forge peace, while weakness usually invites chaos.
“I am a full spectrum conservative,” Hillyer has written. “Mostly libertarian on economics, firmly for a strong defense, and for traditional values.”
Hillyer knows his priorities, if elected.
“Repeal Obamacare, which undermines liberty, and eventually pass market-based health-care reforms,” the 49-year-old traditional-jazz fan and sports enthusiast tells me. “Roll back the regulatory state that undermines liberty. Introduce a constitutional amendment to limit further the liberty-sapping power of eminent-domain property seizures.” He also would “eliminate the corporate income tax entirely, in order to boost pension funds, ‘insource’ jobs from abroad, and catalyze phenomenal economic growth.”
Hillyer also believes his résumé — as a newsman, local CBS-TV personality, and public-relations manager with Qorvis Communications — can help the GOP overcome its tongue-tied tendencies and argue clearly for conservative solutions to America’s multiplying problems.
“I am sure I can help Republicans communicate more effectively, because I have served as a PR executive, a Capitol Hill press aide, and a national-issues journalist.” He adds that “I would be the only Member who entered Congress already having been both inside, as a House Leadership staffer, and outside, covering Congress as a columnist for 17 years. That will give me unique insights into the legislative process, and an ability to represent southern Alabama well.”
Hillyer is just the man to put Democrats in their place when they spew their raw sewage about the GOP being America’s party of racism. Hillyer has the knowledge and guts to remind Americans of Democrats’ centuries of injustice towards blacks — from their founding of the Ku Klux Klan to Obama’s defunding of Washington, D.C.’s school-voucher program — even as the president sent his blameless daughters to Sidwell Friends, the swankiest, priciest private school in town.
Hillyer has infinite credibility on this issue. As a founder of the Louisiana Coalition against Racism and Nazism, Hillyer and his group mercilessly hammered former Klansman David Duke and eventually pounded him out of public office and polite company in Louisiana.
Hillyerforcongress.com is the website for this, Hillyer’s first campaign. One open question is how well he will perform on the hustings. Writing can be a solitary affair, unlike wading into crowds and shaking hands until one’s palms ache.
“I suppose his biggest challenges will be money, potential charges that he is a carpetbagger (he has spent years in Mobile, but was not born there), and whether he can do all that retail stuff,” Bob Livingston says. “Quin is kind and personable. We’ll see if he can do all that baby kissing without squirming.”
Hillyer surely will give this campaign the old college try. And if he prevails, the commentariat’s loss will be Alabama and America’s gain. As statist bandits race through Washington, it would be phenomenal to have a cop like Quin Hillyer right on their heels.
— Deroy Murdock is a Manhattan-based Fox News contributor, a nationally syndicated columnist with the Scripps Howard News Service, and a media fellow with the Hoover Institution on War, Revolution, and Peace at Stanford University.