If at first you don’t succeed, try again.
That, evidently, is the philosophy of Dale Mensing, the 57-year-old cashier at Shop Smart in Redway who is once again launching a longshot bid for the 2nd Congressional District seat held by Democratic Congressman Jared Huffman.
Actually, it’s not accurate to say that Mensing, a Republican, didn’t succeed back in 2014, the first time he ran for Congress. After all, in the primary he managed to come in second by capturing 22 percent of the vote, besting by a sizeable margin marijuana activist Andy Caffrey.
That enabled him to go mano a mano with Huffman in November. While he got his clock cleaned — three out of four voters went with the incumbent — he still managed to get 25 percent of voters to put an X next to his name. Which isn’t so terrible considering that the 2nd District is overwhelmingly Democratic.
The field is different this time around. Aside from Huffman and Mensing, two other folks have thrown their hat into the ring: Erin Schrode, a 25-year-old Democrat from Marin County who is seeking to become the youngest woman ever elected to Congress; and Matthew Wookey, a Sonoma County independent.
Mensing, who has lived in Humboldt County since the late 1980s, has never held political office before. His aim in seeking to become a member of Congress is the same this time around as it was before: To defend the Bill of Rights.
“There’s an insidious, step-by-step battle to take away our freedoms. The reason I run is to fight for the integrity of the Bill of Rights,” Mensing explained last week, referring to the first 10 amendments to the Constitution.
That emphasis puts Mensing in line with the Tea Party wing of the Republican Party, which has raised objections to perceived attacks by the Obama administration on basic rights.
“I don’t have any association with the Tea Party, but I’m more like them than any other wing [of the GOP],” Mensing agreed. “The Tea Party regards themselves as Constitutional originalists. I regard myself that way. So we’re similar.”
Mensing points readily to the 10th Amendment to explain his political philosophy. “The 10th Amendment makes clear that anything not delegated to the federal government falls to the states and to the people. It’s clear as crystal.”
While Mensing considers himself a conservative, his interpretation of the 10th Amendment leads him to some notions that many would consider radical — such as a belief that the federal government’s role should be sharply cut back.
“Housing, education and health care. The federal government has no role in these realms,” Mensing declared.
Not surprisingly, Mensing is no fan of the Affordable Care Act, the set of reforms to the country’s health care system that kicked in two years ago. “Obamacare is illegal. The Supreme Court was wrong to uphold it. Congress should repeal it,” he said flatly.
“I don’t believe the Affordable Care Act was initiated because of concern about health,” he went on. “It was instigated for the federal government to get more power over us.”
He also objects to Medicare, the federal program that has provided health insurance for Americans 65 and older since the 1960s. But he stopped short of calling for an abrupt end to a program that millions of Americans depend on. “We need to evolve away from Medicare,” was the way he put it.
Regarding what he sees as another threat to basic Constitutional guarantees, Mensing is concerned about the 2nd Amendment, the right of citizens to bear arms.
“The other party in general wants to chip away at the 2nd Amendment. I want to be a voice for the 2nd Amendment and vote for laws that defend it.”
While he didn’t point to specific votes or policies, Mensing did suggest that Huffman is no friend of gun owners. “He believes there should be more restrictions on the type of guns sold and [more] limitations on types of ammunition,” Mensing claimed.
In terms of his views on Huffman generally, Mensing did not offer a point-by-point dressing down. “I oppose him on principle. I don’t have a critique,” he said.
Regarding the presidential race, Mensing said that he was initially a backer of Ben Carson, the retired pediatric brain surgeon from Michigan who made a splash by claiming that the Affordable Care Act was the worst thing since slavery. But Carson bowed out in March, so Donald Trump is now his man.
“He will be the nominee of my party, so I will support him,” Mensing said in a comment that was something less than a ringing endorsement.
“I’ve heard him say some things he should have worded better. But I don’t think he’s a bigot,” Mensing went on, adding that Trump’s remarks about Muslims were “oversimplified and taken out of context.”
As for the likely Democratic presidential nominee, Hillary Clinton, Mensing contended that she was a puppet of behind-the-scenes players — in particular the leaders of the Council on Foreign Relations, the New York City-based think tank.
“Hillary Clinton gets her direction from the Council on Foreign Relations. She’s Miss-One-World Order if there ever was one,” Mensing said in a remark that revealed not simply his dislike of Clinton, but also his distrust of global organizations in general.
He’s no fan, for example, of the United Nations. Consider this statement on his website: “One of the principal goals of the UN is to limit national sovereignty — especially that of the United States. Our principles of equality and self-determination can continue if we firmly hold on to our independence. Yet the more that we subject elements of our society to the auspices of a global organization that ever seeks to limit and eventually abolish all nations’ national sovereignty, then the less freedom we will have.”
On some issues, such as marijuana, Mensing comes across as a political liberal. “Pot should be legalized,” he declared. “I’m for freedom. I don’t see why you can’t smoke if you can drink.”
He even thinks that marijuana that’s grown for recreational purposes should be taxed, with the proceeds going toward “refurbishing the destruction that’s gone on in federal and state forests.”
And while he described himself as “a climate change skeptic,” he said he was an advocate of alternative energy — in particular, the conversion of the energy of ocean waves for purposes such as the generation of electricity and water desalinization.
“For more than 30 years I’ve been advocating wave energy. That’s where the real power is, in [ocean] waves.”