Rep. Jo Bonner (R., Ala.) shocked the Alabama political world yesterday when he suddenly announced his resignation, effective Aug. 15.
But things move fast in politics. Bonner announced his resignation at 4 p.m. Thursday. Conservative columnist Quin Hillyer announced he was running for Bonner’s seat at 5 p.m.
"When an opportunity comes to do something good, one must grab it," Hillyer wrote in an American Spectator post that night.
Hillyer served as press secretary to former Rep. Robert Livingston (R., La.) before returning to his first career: journalism. Hillyer was a columnist for newspapers such as the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette and Mobile Register, and then moved on to number of conservative national publications, including the American Spectator, the Washington Times and the Washington Examiner.
The Washington Free Beacon caught up with Hillyer on Friday for a short interview.
WFB: So what spurred you to throw your hat in the ring?
Hillyer: Well, Congressmen Bonner shocked everybody by suddenly announcing he's going to resign, and I just figured there is nobody down here who can more quickly and be up and running in Congress than I can, both because I worked as a leadership staffer, so I know how Congress works, and I'm already well known to conservative media and activists. So I could hit the ground running.
WFB: As a fellow member of the "right-wing noise machine," as our detractors like to call us, what has your time writing for conservative media taught you?
Hillyer: It has taught me that there is a desperate need—scratch that—near desperate hunger for principled conservative leadership. I see it in my readers’ comments and emails all the time. And this is a country that is so wonderful. It needs a return to the things that made us great.
WFB: What kind of principles do you mean?
Hillyer: I'm a veteran Reagan-Kemp, opportunity society conservative. I was in Detroit in 1980 when Reagan was nominated. I don't want to return to Reagan’s policies, but I want to apply his timeless principles to situations today.
In terms of positions, I'm a well-known fiscal conservative. I'm for a very robust and lean—lean as in no fat—defense force, and for ethical government.
For more background—it looks like no one has hacked this yet—the Wikipedia article on me looks remarkably accurate right now.
WFB: Has anyone else announced they’re running?
Hillyer: There are a whole bunch of names being mentioned. There are a lot of elected officials. I figured I needed to get out early because people think of me as a journalist, not a politician.
It's a very hard thing for someone elected midterm in a special election to figure out how Congress works. Alabama deserves someone who can hit the ground running. [Phone rings.] Hello? Hi, can I call you back in a second? … Sorry about that.
WFB: No worries. Let’s talk policy a little bit. How do you feel about the immigration talks going on right now?
Hillyer: I wish they would leave immigration alone until we get a Republican president. Anything Obama would sign, I do not trust. I don’t see the urgency to do something on immigration right now. I'm not saying nothing needs to be done, but I don't see the urgency.
WFB: OK, so after immigration, Democrats are hoping to bring back some gun control bills. There’s a split among Republicans on supporting things like expanded background checks. Where do you stand on that?
Hillyer: Hold on, I’m getting another call from a number I don’t recognize […]
WFB: You’re a man in demand, Quin.
Hillyer: Well, I’m the only one who’s announced, so … OK, where were we? Gun control: I'm against it.
WFB: Anything else I should have asked or that you’d like to add?
Hillyer: I am the longest standing Reaganite who could possibly be in this race, and I think that's what southern Alabama wants.
WFB: One last question, probably the most controversial one I’ll ask you. University of Alabama or Auburn?
Hillyer: It would take too long to explain that.
WFB: Good answer.