When David Cuddy decided to run against Senator Ted Stevens for the Republican nomination for the US Senate in Alaska, he had no idea that Stevens was going to be indicted on federal corruption charges. He was simply tired of the excessive earmarks, the disapproval of Congress in general and that Stevens was not focused on the nation’s problems.

Senator Stevens is the poster child of why the GOP got trounced in 2006 and his race was looking to be another Democrat pickup in 2008. However, chance kicked in and preparation with the right ideas met opportunity. Stevens was recently indicted, which has thrown the Republican primary wide open in a race that should be Stevens’ to lose.

Of particular interest in this race, at least from a national perspective, is the debate on earmark reform. Earmarks are legislative tools whereby legislators insert “pet projects” into legislation without debate and shower gifts upon their friends. Senator Stevens, the earmark king, made the practice well-known and despised with the infamous “bridge to nowhere” project where he tried to direct $223 million of federal funds to build a bridge to an island of 50 people.

Cuddy seeks to reform this practice with a common-sense solution, to make earmarks public and subject to debate. In the long-term, he believes the federal government shouldn’t be spending any money on local projects. If a town would like a public swimming pool, they shouldn’t be able to charge taxpayers in another state with the bill. The practice of trying to get “free federal money” needs to stop. It is a bit like sending a sandwich to Washington and lobbying for the leftover crumbs and calling it “success”.

Cuddy comes from a business background and applies economic approaches to policy issues. For health care, he argues it isn’t about who pays. That’s simply a matter of passing the high cost of health care around. The problem is the high cost and inefficiencies built into the health care system. He points to Walmart as a successful example of innovation to take an industry and radically reduce its costs. The high cost of health care is linked to another issue that he speaks on: immigration.

One of the causes of the high cost of health care is the “unfunded mandate” that hospitals must treat everyone who shows up regardless of their ability to pay. This includes illegal immigrants. The result is that those costs for health care are passed off on paying customers through higher fees, higher copayments and higher insurance premiums. The debate on who pays is an interesting aside, but it misses the point. Health care costs are skyrocketing.

Cuddy understands why immigrants would do anything they could to get to the United States. The incentives are so great compared to what is in Mexico, it just makes sense. The senseless moralizing against illegal immigrations (i.e. “ZO NOES! They Broke the Law!”) does nothing to solve the issue, especially when both the governments of Mexico and the United States encourage this. He argues the incentives need to be changed by enforcing the law, particularly on employers who knowingly hire illegal immigrants to push down wages.

Foreign policy, in general, he argues should disentangle us from foreign engagements. We’re in Iraq and we should finish the job, but the process to close foreign bases and end power projection is a task Cuddy believes the United State should undertake.

Cuddy winning the primary is not a given, he faces another Republican, Vic Vickers who will throw hundreds of thousands of dollars into the race. However, on the issues, Cuddy is clearly superior and shows Republicans what they need to do to stop losing. In short, Republicans need to run on their platform instead of running a platform to redistribute the spoils of power to their friends instead. Cuddy also has the endorsement of the Republican Liberty Caucus which has a strong presence in Alaska.

Cuddy is running to restore balanced budgets, to fix elections that overwhelmingly favor incumbents so that citizens can have a meaningful place in the political process again. It’d be a welcome change from Ted Stevens and hopefully will inspire more candidates like Cuddy to run for Congress.

John Bambenek is an academic professional for the University of Illinois. He is the author of Illinois Deserves Better and is an information security professional, part of the Internet Storm Center and a courseware author and certification grader for the GIAC family of security certifications. He blogs at Part-Time Pundit and is the executive director of The Tumaini Foundation which helps AIDS orphans and other children in Tanzania to get an education.

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