Robby Starbuck intends to become 2022’s leading Republican candidate, challenging Congressman Jim Cooper (D-TN-05) for his long-held seat. Starbuck is the son of Cuban refugees, husband to musical artist and anti-human trafficking activist Landon Newsom Starbuck, and father of three young children.
Starbuck was the first to announce a campaign run for the 2022 election, just two days after Election Day. This year, no Republican candidates contested Representative Cooper during the election. In an interview with The Tennessee Star, Starbuck explained that he’s running to put working families first in all policies, preserve individual freedoms, and improve Tennessee’s educational system.
“I understand the challenges that people face, and the dynamics at play. I’ve owned a small business. I’ve dealt with the nights where you lay in bed, thinking about how your decisions affect your workers and their families and their dinner table,” said Starbuck. “I’ve always said this: the best politicians are reluctant politicians. I didn’t grow up wanting to run for office. The forefront of my goals was building a healthy, happy family and doing a creative job. But growing up and looking at my country from the vantage point of what the country would look like for my kids as adults, I realized I had to do something.”
Starbuck also explained to The Star that his approach to campaigning and representing constituents will differ greatly from Cooper and past Republican candidates. He attributed his unique approach to his background.
“Being Latino, I’m going to reach out to the Latino community and Black community in Nashville in a way that others haven’t previously done in this district. I don’t think it was for any reason but for the idea that it’s hard to win those votes. I think they’re worth fighting for – Trump showed us that this year,” explained Starbuck. “All of my fellow Cubans are rabid political creatures, and we fight as hard as we can against socialism. I bet you by the end of this, every Latino household in Nashville will get a phone call or a door knock from us.”
Starbuck likened his approach to two other men that put individual freedom and the working class first: Senators Josh Hawley (R-MO) and Rand Paul (R-KY). Starbuck also stated that his focus would be to serve the interests of working families in education. He explained that he supports school vouchers, which he said will allow families to choose according to their needs.
“They need to be empowered to take their children to schools they believe are best for them. The person that is going to make the best decision is not the government, it’s not the schools – it’s the parents. Everybody’s seen how teachers unions have behaved during this pandemic,” stated Starbuck. “Chicago Teachers Union called it ‘misogynistic’ and ‘racist’ to return to school. They’re putting politics before kids. The only answer to that is competition. When you have to compete with other institutions, you have to make yourself attractive to parents. You can’t be a propagandist for the right or left, you have to be politically neutral if you want to give kids the best education.”
Most importantly, Starbuck told The Star, his objective as a representative is direct communication with his constituents.
“I will be the most transparent representative that anyone in the U.S. has had,” asserted Starbuck. “I want people to be able to talk to their congressman. It’s supposed to be a government by the people and for the people. That goes for both sides. Whatever your ideology is, I want to hear your opinion. That is how we sharpen ourselves to be the best we can be – especially on things we [representatives] may not have considered the first go-around.”
To make his point, Starbuck shared stories of his visits to business-owners throughout the district. Of all the constituents he met, Starbuck stated that none of them recalled receiving any personal responses or meetings from Cooper.
“I’ve yet to meet any small business owners throughout this pandemic that said they received a real response from him. I just did an event with small business owners in Davidson and Dickson counties,” stated Starbuck. “There were a lot of people there. Not one person got an actual response from him or meeting with him. Being a pragmatic individual, I understand you have to make decisions that people don’t understand. But you have to answer for those decisions. If I ever do anything [as representative], they not only have a right to, but they have a moral obligation to meet with me – and I have a moral obligation to meet with them and discuss everything about my decision with them.”
Starbuck added that Cooper hasn’t challenged his brother, Nashville Mayor John Cooper, on the pandemic regulations that have put communities in financial straits.
“Nobody’s gotten onto Cooper for those totally destructive policies that his brother has backed or put into place,” stated Starbuck. “That’s going to be a very clear, dividing line between myself and [Representative] Cooper: I won’t be silent on those issues, like the tax hikes in Davidson, the lockdowns and destructions of small businesses. I’ll serve as a check and balance rather than being an apologist, like him.”
Recently, Starbuck found himself in the midst of a Black Lives Matter (BLM) rally in Franklin. Instead of leaving, Starbuck told The Star that he used the timing as an opportunity to connect with the protestors.
“We have a unique opportunity to introduce some emotional intelligence into policy explanations,” said Starbuck. “I listened [to the protestors], and at the end, I talked to some people and asked some questions. I explained my reservations about some elements of the Marxist elements [to BLM]. A woman I talked to, I played her the video of the [BLM] founders saying that they were trained Marxists, explaining to her how these leaders are dividing people by race in movements is more destructive because we’re teaching people to look at each other as skin color first. She not only apologized for not knowing – which she didn’t need to do – she decided she was going to leave [the rally] and was embarrassed for being there.”
According to Starbuck, the woman said that Starbuck would be the first Republican she’d ever vote for. The interaction took place prior to Starbuck announcing his run for Congress.
Thursday, Starbuck is scheduled to meet with the Davidson County Republican Party. Starbuck projected that his campaign will have solidified their team members and first wave of promotional material by the end of February.
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