JFP Interview

Excerpts from the Jackson Free Press interview with Representative Travis Childers - Childers Unplugged

Did you ask for them? How does that work?
I asked for Agriculture, because when Bennie Thompson was moved up to take over the Homeland Security Committee, it left a vacancy as far as Mississippi went on the Agricultural Committee. ... And that wouldn’t do, because agriculture is still such an important industry in the state.

So you filled a hole there?
Yeah. I felt like I owed it to the people of Mississippi. They need a voice on Agriculture. I’m the new kid on the block, so I figured I’d step up. (Pelosi) placed me on the Financial Services Committee because I’m a businessman. I have a business background. I’ve been a businessman for 31 years, since I was in junior college, so she felt my being a realtor for all that time made the committee a good place for me, and I concur. I’m very pleased with my two assignments.

You know, a lot of grumpy local Republican types seem to think you owe your victory in MS-01 to a rivalry between the Tupelo dirt-haulers and the uppity refugees fleeing Memphis for the Mississippi suburbs in Desoto County.
I know that. I’ve heard all those things they said, but I think it was more a matter of having two clearly distinct personalities in the race. There wasn’t much crossover from people saying, “Well, I kind of like “em both.” There wasn’t much of that, I don’t think. We stood for two totally different segments and two different groups of people. Travis Childers stood for working families. The other guy did not, and it showed. The good thing about that, of course, is there are a lot more working people than anybody else. The working people felt passionate enough about their future and nervous enough about their financial situation to turn out to vote, and you can bet I’m the most appreciative and grateful congressman in this 435-member House.

Getting back to Desoto County, you did find some love there, too, didn’t you?
I sure did. I’m glad somebody noticed that. Let me tell you: My home county (Prentiss) gave me 85 percent of the vote, and I say that with all the humility in my body, but I also got 25 or so percent in Desoto County—that’s the other guy’s home. I got about 5,000 or 6,000 votes there.

Quite the independent, apparently. I notice, for instance, that you haven’t endorsed any presidential candidates, yet. Do you plan to?
Here’s my situation. We’ve been without a congressman for five long months in North Mississippi. We’ve had no representation. Granted, we had our two U.S. senators, but the system’s not set up for long vacancies. For five months we’ve done without. I just feel like the people that I serve and the people I represent want me to get busy with the business of the First Congressional District, represent their interest, and I don’t think they want me meddling in presidential politics, because every hour I spend on any other subject, other than the First District of Mississippi, is an hour away from issues concerning the people I serve.

Can’t spare the 30 minutes to write an endorsement, eh?
Mississippians are an independent-minded group of people, and as far as I’m concerned, they are free to vote for whomever they want to for president. I hope they choose me as their congressman, but that’s about where my personal preferences should stop as far as the voters go. Mind you, I am a Democrat. I don’t think people question my Democratic credentials, but I really don’t want to wade off into this issue, because when I do that, I think it detracts from my mission to be the best congressman this district has ever had.

I know you do a lot of work in the mortgage market. What condition is the market in right now?
Just recently I was named to the Capital Markets Subcommittee, in the Financial Services Committee. I literally got the last seat on that subcommittee, and I can’t wait to pick up on the information coming through that subcommittee. I think it will help me get a greater understanding of what’s going on with the mortgage problems in America.

From what you know already, is there one place to lay the blame, or was this collapse due to a combination of factors?
A lot of lenders and mortgage companies were preying on people who normally would not be able to have afforded the mortgages they were shooting for, but the lender somehow made it work, but then ran the interest rates way, way up. As in most situations, there’s a lot of blame to pass around, but I just don’t think this administration has done everything it can, in a quick enough fashion, to address the issue.

Some would say perhaps the borrowers shouldn’t have engaged in risky loans that allowed them to lie about their income. What’s your response?
I always want to be on the side of the working folks, but working folks sometimes make mistakes, too. Yes, in all honesty, there probably were some folks who weren’t totally truthful in their quest for a loan, and they’re now, sadly, paying the price. But I still think we could have done more to soften the blow. Before Congress adjourns for the year, I think you’ll see some action taken. I can’t give you any real details this early, but I want to be a part of the solution.

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