"Regulation" was the word of the night in Jason Smith's speech to the Cape Girardeau County Tea Party on Tuesday at the Cape Girardeau Public Library.
The Republican candidate for Missouri's 8th Congressional District said he built his reputation within the Missouri House of Representatives, where he is speaker pro tem, by reviewing and eliminating "burdensome" regulations and plans to do the same in Washington, D.C.
"Naysayers would tell you I'm too young and don't have enough experience for Washington," Smith said. "And, no, I don't. I don't have years of experience racking up deficits and burdening our middle class. I think we're all pretty fed up with that experience."
The GOP's nominee to run in the June 4 special election to replace former U.S. representative Jo Ann Emerson stressed deficit control and reform of entitlement programs.
"We need to get our fiscal house in order," Smith said. "We have to cut wasteful spending, and there's waste everywhere. What this country has isn't a revenue problem, it's a spending problem."
Smith cited welfare as one program in need of reform. Rather than encourage those who receive welfare benefits to work their way off the program, Smith said it encourages people to become more reliant. The program needs to "give people a hand up, not a handout," he said.
Smith said he hopes to make the changes by working with members of other parties, if he can find conservative common ground with them.
"People always ask me what kind of candidate I am," Smith said. "I'm a Jason Smith candidate. I call myself a Republican because I believe in limited government. We as conservatives need to break these factions and come together to support each other."
Although he does not label himself a tea-party candidate, Smith said he frequently attends tea party events because he shares common ideological ground with the conservative movement, which primarily preaches fiscal restraint. He also applauded local tea party activists for being informed on the issues and communicating their problems to local government.
Brian Bollman, chairman of the Cape Girardeau County Tea Party, liked much of what he heard.
"I liked the statement he made about coming together," Bollman said. "The reason I joined the tea party is because I wasn't happy with any of the current parties, but I'd like to see more people come together to support conservative values."
Bollman said Smith is a candidate he definitely felt he could support, even if his own views on spending cuts and regulation reform were "even more conservative" than those of Smith.
"What I hope he does most, at this point, is say 'no,'" Bollman said. "Just say 'no' to all the nonsense up there and show them the backbone he has and explain common sense conservatism to people."
Smith said if he were to be elected to fill Emerson's seat, her strong reputation for being effective helping district residents navigate the federal government would not be something he took lightly.
"Jo Ann Emerson did a wonderful job on her constituent services," Smith said. "I hope to do the same thing, and I'm excited to have this opportunity now to travel around the district meeting so many great people."
711 N. Clark Ave., Cape Girardeau, Mo.