Meet the ‘loud mouth’ Republican who says he can win Hillary’s old Senate seat

Alex Pappas Political Reporter
Font Size:

Could a Republican really win Hillary Clinton’s old Senate seat in New York?

Now held by appointed Democratic Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, it’s not on most election handicappers’ lists for realistic GOP pick-ups. But the self-described “loud-mouth” Republican in the race, Joe DioGuardi, says recent polls — including one that shows him trailing by only a point — prove that the race is more competitive than one might think.

“Why I’m going to win — and I know I’m going to win — is because I represent the American dream, and people see it slipping away,” said DioGuardi, a former congressman born to Italian immigrants who might be best known for his daughter, Kara, a former judge on “American Idol.”

In a recent interview with The Daily Caller, DioGuardi, 70, made one thing clear: he’s a passionate, colorful talker whose got a fight in him.

“You need an activist, a loud mouth,” he said, as his voice got louder and louder, during a conversation on multiple topics — ranging from the nation’s debt to social security, from his work with the Albanian people to his celebrity daughter. (And he hays he is not forcing his daughter out on the campaign trail, though he welcomes her if she wants to help. “We have made a compact. ‘Kara, your brand is Hollywood, my brand is Washington.’”)

So how does DioGuardi fare on the issues?

Though he doesn’t consider himself a Tea Partier, he has the activist speak down and benefited from their support in the primary. “Here’s the message, very simple: we’re spending money we don’t have. We’re borrowing from countries like China that don’t share our values, that basically we don’t trust, and we’re giving up the American dream,” he said.

He refers to himself as a “Paul Revere for financial responsibility,” who says term limits and a balanced budget amendment are desperately needed. Looking back on the war in Iraq, it was a mistake, he says. But when it comes to Afghanistan, he’s willing to “give Gen. Petraeus the benefit of the doubt,” and when it comes to disarming a nuclear Iran, he’s even more hawkish.

“There is no way we can let Iran get a nuclear weapon,” he said. “Let me repeat, under no circumstances can Iran get a nuclear weapon…I don’t care what it takes.”

His hero is Republican New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie. “If I get endorsed by anybody…there’s only one I requested. And that’s Gov. Christie…He’s facing off with the teachers unions, he’s facing off with everybody.”

Though he thinks Social Security is “a ponzi scheme,” he says he’s against privatizing it because “we could never afford to do that.” But he’s for repealing health care law, which he says “did nothing to reduce the cost of health care and medicine,” and passing tort reform legislation. And he zinged his Democratic opponent for being part of the reason such reforms didn’t make it into the health care law. “Why wasn’t that put in? I’ll tell you why. We got 67 attorneys in the Senate. And guess who’s one of them? Kirsten Gillibrand,” he said.
Gillibrand spokesman Glen Caplin, asked for comment, made light of the Republican’s failed attempts at  re-election to Congress, saying “as New Yorkers begin to learn more about Joe DioGuardi they will reject him once again…That is why he has been rejected by voters and lost five congressional campaigns in a row over the last 25 years.”

A recent Real Clear Politics article put it this way: “Let’s be clear up front: A straight-up Republican win would be unheard of. No Democratic senator has ever been defeated for re-election in the Empire State, and the last time a non-Democrat won an open seat in New York in a two-way race was in 1958… Nevertheless, it is certainly possible for DioGuardi to pull off the upset.”

DioGuardi, talking about his strategy between now and November, makes it clear he knows the uphill challenge he faces.

“I need to be sure I break through to those Democrats who could see me as someone who they’d trust, even though they disagree with me on one or two issues,” he said. “That’s how I won in the 80s, and that’s how I’ll win [this year].”