Carl Higbie says it's time to 'take America back'

No one has to tell Carl Higbie what it’s like to serve his country. But now the former Navy SEAL, who served two tours in Iraq, is looking at a different kind of service, the one he hopes will bring him to Washington, D.C., as a member of the U.S. Congress.

Mr. Higbie, a Greenwich resident, recently made his campaign for Congress official. A Republican, he is one of three declared candidates seeking to run against incumbent U.S. Rep. Jim Himes (D-4th) in November.

Outside politics, even, the sailor says he is dedicated to serving both his country and his community. He volunteers as a trainer every Sunday with a group called BUDS and Beyond at the Wilton YMCA. Together with founder Alan Sharkany, Mr. Higbie helps train men he calls the “future warriors of America.”

“It’s a way for us to train guys who want to be future warriors of America, especially if they want to go for some sort of specialized warfare. But some guys participate in it solely for the leadership aspect. It’s a way for kids in the community to get the type of training they’ll get in the military and the type of mentality they will get.”

In addition to physical fitness training and general military skills like knot-tying and rescue swimming, those who participate in the program are also helped in developing their leadership abilities.

“Leadership cannot be taught, but you can learn it,” he said. “You have to learn it from yourself. We try to instill the idea that our country no longer has leaders. We have rulers of law, but we no longer have leaders of men. We’re pushing for future leaders of America, giving people a picture beyond themselves.”

The congressional candidate said the BUDS program is best for people who are able to come in with a sense of humility.

“They should come in with an open mind, but also with humility, because we’re going to break you down,” he said. “It’s not an easy program.”

Yet he encouraged those wary of their physical abilities to welcome the challenge.

“If you’re not there, we’ll get you there. The idea is to let us help you,” he said.

Mr. Himes, a Cos Cob resident, has turned what was for decades a Republican locked seat into a blue one, and while he hasn’t officially declared his intentions yet, he is considered extremely likely to run for a fourth term. Mr. Himes has improved his margins of victory in all three of his successful elections so far.

But Mr. Higbie told Hersam Acorn Newspapers in a recent interview that it’s time for a change and he’s the candidate to change things.

“It’s time that soldiers like myself come home and start taking America back,” Mr. Higbie said. “We’ve got to take it back from the people that are trying to destroy it. We need to reinstall American exceptionalism, and that’s being taken out of everything, from our schools to modern civilization to economic superiority. We need to take America back to the principles it was founded on, which are to be the best.”

Since ending his time in the military, Mr. Higbie has written a book, Battle on the Home Front: A Navy SEAL’s Mission to Save the American Dream, and has been a guest on Fox News programming. He also has a young daughter at home and said, “We don’t have time to waste” when asked why he was choosing to run now. Mr. Higbie said he worries his daughter will not grow up with the same opportunities he has.

“Not only is the time now to do this, the time was now six years ago,” Mr. Higbie said. “I feel I am able to make a difference and I don’t want to wait. People have asked me why I’m doing this now when I’m so young, but when they do I tell them that they’re old and should move aside. My generation is inheriting a mess, and it’s time for some of our generation to step up and try to fix it or else we’re going to reap the whirlwind.”

Poised for primary?

But Mr. Higbie is not just running against an incumbent in Mr. Himes, he’s also facing a prohibitive favorite for the Republican nomination. Former state Sen. Dan Debicella got off to an early start in his second campaign after losing to Mr. Himes in 2010.

Mr. Higbie rejects the notion that this campaign is an uphill battle, but he acknowledges that winning the Republican convention outright this spring against Mr. Debicella is a challenge.

“I’m not going to talk bad about my two opponents,” Mr. Higbie said. “Honestly, they’re good guys and I see them on a regular basis, but I will say what puts me ahead of them is that if you look at Jim Himes and you look at Dan Debicella and put them side by side, what’s different? They both worked in the finance industry. The only difference is the letter in front of their names and a couple basic principles. I put my money where my mouth is. I’ve served this country overseas and now I’m ready to serve it at home. I’ve made sacrifices that most people don’t have to make, and that will be seen by the American people.”

Mr. Higbie said he’s not yet ready to commit to running a primary election this summer against Mr. Debicella.

Demanding accountability

If Mr. Higbie is elected to Congress, he would likely join as a member of the majority party, as political experts peg Republicans to retain their majority in the House.

When asked what he could do as one of more than 400 when seniority in Congress is seen as so important toward getting things done, Mr. Higbie indicated he does not see himself as a quiet member of the House.

Mr. Higbie said he’s going to focus on both parties.

“I was a Navy SEAL for nine years. I do not fail,” he said. “If John Boehner sits me down and says, ‘Hey, I don’t like your idea,’ then I’m going to take it directly to the American people and I’ll make them listen. I’m a normal guy. I’m not some rich hedge fund guy. I’m working a full-time job while trying to do this while also trying to raise an 11-month-old daughter.”

Policy positions

Mr. Higbie is with the majority of Republicans in Congress who are calling for a repeal of the Affordable Care Act, aka Obamacare, as he calls for a “return to our traditional health care system” with increased competition across state lines.

One of Mr. Higbie’s proposals is to have a 0% corporate tax rate. He said that at 39% right now, it’s created a “mass exodus” of jobs overseas, and such a tax reduction would have “other countries flocking to us,” creating jobs and economic stability.

Mr. Higbie says he will balance his proposed 0% corporate tax rate by proposing cuts to “entitlement spending.” He does not consider Social Security an entitlement because it’s something that’s been paid into, but he questions the need for other areas of government spending, particularly when it comes to welfare.

“Why are we giving to people, most of which don’t want to work, not can’t work, but don’t want to work?” Mr. Higbie said.

When asked where the evidence of this supposed unwillingness to work is, Mr. Higbie says it’s there in the number of jobs that go unfilled. He added that entitlement programs “entice people not to go out and look for that minimum wage job because you get paid more on welfare.”

To address this, Mr. Higbie said, he is in favor of a major change in how welfare programs are delivered.

“I don’t want to cut it off tomorrow, but I want to wean people off it, eventually resulting in a complete elimination of it,” Mr. Higbie said.

Mr. Higbie also has strong feelings about the lack of speed in responding to the needs of veterans in the country. He said that will be one of the major themes driving his campaign.

“It makes me sick that you can go to a welfare office and get a check within two weeks for doing absolutely nothing from the taxpayers but if you’re a returning veteran with an injury, a disability or a battle wound, it can take up to two or three years to get compensation for that,” Mr. Higbie said.

He also shared his views on foreign policy, claiming that overseas “our leaders have lost their way.”

“They’re willing to put the enemy’s feelings in front of our feelings,” Mr. Higbie said. “We’re fighting wars on other nations’ terms. If I’m in Congress and we’re going to send people to fight, we’re going to fight on our terms, our way.”

He said a major question that needs to be asked of anyone advocating war is, Would they send their son and daughter there? and he has doubts about those conflicts.

“I have to consider that I’m not just sending troops,” Mr. Higbie said. “I have to look at it like I’m sending my daughter there. That’s how personal this is to me.”