Ahead of the elections, voters of Orlando will elect their federal representatives to serve in the U.S. House. Hear from Calvin Wimbish

Florida U.S. House Candidate Q&A: Calvin Wimbish

The race for Florida’s District 10 in the U.S. House features Republican Calvin Wimbish facing Democrat Maxwell Frost. The Florida Political Review’s Maria Varas, Brandon Lancho and Kelly Ralph caught up with Wimbish on October 10, 2022. General Election Day is Tuesday, November 8, 2022.

Ahead of the November midterm elections, voters of Orange County, Florida, will elect their federal representatives to serve in the U.S. House of Representatives. Of the four districts that contain parts of Orange County, District 10 is the only one to be centered within Orange County. The district’s current representative is Val Demings, who is retiring from her position to run against Sen. Marco Rubio in Florida’s Senate race.

District 10 is a minority-coalition district that comprises north-central Orange County and contains roughly 769,000 residents. Before the 2020 census and redistricting, District 10 was still a minority-coalition district and was situated on the western side of Orange County. The district is largely Democratic, having voted for President Joe Biden by 25% in 2020. Under the new district lines, it would have voted for Biden by 32 points. 

The race to replace Demings is underway with two leading historic candidates: Lieutenant Colonel Calvin Wimbish (R) and Maxwell Alejandro Frost (D). Wimbish is a 73-year-old decorated military veteran. His candidacy is historic because if elected, he would become the second green beret member of Congress, next to fellow Florida Rep. Michael Waltz. His campaign website is https://www.votecal2022.org.

In this interview, we ask Colonel Wimbish about his historic candidacy, inspirations, experiences, and would-be legislative priorities.

Q: What inspired you to run for Congress? 

A: One of the things that concerns me is how our country is being, in my opinion, mismanaged. One thing about all of you in college, and I who went through many of the same ropes that you’re going through now, is to understand what it is to have the competence to be willing to step up to the plate and know what to do when you have to make decisions that are not just grassroot, but always up to the strategic level. 

Experience can’t be taught. It has to be earned over time. And over time, I’ve earned a lot of years of experience and learned what it takes to be a leader. What it takes to be a manager — how do you get individuals to come together in a team, so that collectively the mission or the goal that you’re trying to set can be achieved? There are many components, and knowing how to manage through those things caused me to take these transferable skills that I had from over 33 years of military service, and also use them in corporate America. As a manager and as a leader. I rose up through the ranks of the military from the Second Lieutenant upon graduating from college. I went to a historical black college, Morgan State University in Baltimore. I paid my way through school and earned a scholarship while in school and at that time, I was 20. I was already in charge of men around the world with the elite 82nd Airborne Division. I was a paratrooper at that time, 20 years old and responsible for men, their lives, their mission, and being able to make decisions as they hit the ground running, not allowing my emotion to override rational thinking, and been able to get into that mode and know that you’re accountable and responsible. Those kinds are the things that resonate in my mind. 

A year ago on 9/11 we made a strategic error and a horrific withdrawal that left many young people, unfortunately, dead in Afghanistan. I served in Afghanistan, I served in uniform and I also served as a contractor. And I served in those various locations where you saw all of those people trying to get out of Afghanistan, and fallen off to the airplanes because they knew the Taliban. We’re lucky in this country, to see our daughters being able to achieve success and being able to compete fairly against their male counterparts… But all of those memories, of what I saw, are what I never want to see come to America. And weeks before the withdrawal, 13 young men and women were murdered at the gates. I witnessed it on on all the networks, the Taliban murdering the commandos that I once trained. I carry a coin in my pocket that they gave me because we gave them the knowledge and the skills to protect their women and children and hopefully, return Iraq and Afghanistan back to nations of dignity and pride. 

It wasn’t meant to be, unfortunately, and I said to myself a year ago that I have to do more than just sit here and watch the error. God has blessed me with skills and knowledge and experiences. I’m educated. I came from nothing. I’ve got more than I deserve. What can I do? It was four o’clock in the morning, when my spiritual self was awakened by my Creator and said, “Go to work. You’re not retired anymore.” I retired four times: three times from the military, and once from corporate America. And then, I taught high school JROTC for five years at two different high schools. During COVID I was unemployed, but that was okay. I had it made, or did I really?

If you love this nation as much as I do, you would understand this important question: what are we going to have laid for the future? That caused me to run for Congress. That is truly what brought me to the table. If not me, then who? If not now, then when? I’m willing to take a bullet for my country. I’m a Bronze Star recipient. I’m a disabled veteran. But at my age, and my age is not an issue, at least for me, it isn’t. I am 73, and they’re already saying well, “here’s a 25 Generation-Z.” That doesn’t matter. What does matter is: are you capable? Are you experienced enough to make everything that you’ve got here, and everything that you’ve learned, physically, psychologically work for the system? I can bring that to the table for America, and that’s why I ran for Congress.

Q: As a former Green Beret colonel, how do you plan on using your extensive military experience, along with the lessons you learned from it, to approach your role as a Representative?

A: One of the things you gotta do is think on your feet and be able to react to rapidly changing circumstances. Remember, it’s not all about me, it’s above me. It’s about the people who elected me to serve. As you know, in that Declaration of Independence, it talks about those who are elected to serve those who are governed. And, as a person who is going to go to Congress to be the advocate for the people, I got to remember to understand what it is that the people have told me. Are their concerns the issues that they want to have answered and resolved? 

Lower taxes, for example, is one of the hottest issues that is on the table for most Americans right now. You know, you’re all out there in college, but also when you think about your families at home, you stretch $1. The cost of living has gotten out of whack, where the cost of a gallon of gasoline is equal to the same process to find a gallon of milk. If you’re at the social, lower economic side of the income scale, how are you going to make a decision to put gas in my car to go to work to take care of my family? So I could put food on the table and put clothes on my kids’ back? Keep a roof over my head, our rent? Everything happens with inflation. Inflation is the killer. 

Inflation was going in the right direction, before the current administration took over in 2020. When the current President Biden wrote and signed those 17 executive orders, inflation got dialed up. I knew then, as you all are feeling, that I knew it was coming. When you cut off the pipeline, that directly affects what happens to everything. You can’t get products to move, unless you have vehicles that can move. You got ships that are stuck out at sea. You can look out to the West and East Coasts, and see all the container ships lined up that they can’t get to dock. Then, you need to have workers to offload them and put them onto trailers and trucks, and we had Covid. To me, all of these things were a combination of bad judgment decisions. 

Then you have Law and Order starting to get out of whack. As you know, you had cities that were burning, and no one did anything to stop it: at the federal or state levels. We began to see chaos arising because we started to let social ideas or socialism become the priority versus common sense and rational decision making. It’s no more than if you don’t like your professor, you decide to go burn the classroom. That is not wise. Or, you go to the bookstore and let the bookstore burn knowing that the next time you go get a book, they’re probably going to be 10 times more expensive because you’ve wasted resources and assets that were valuable to your country. 

So when you asked me about my military skills, I learned how to manage time, and I know how to take people with skill sets. I see the issues, and my goal is not to just look at the issues, my goal is to see what are some of the common sense solutions. What are the strategies that can be put together to make things flow? You don’t want to waste your time in college forever. You want to take those skills and put them up at work. My military experience helped me do that. I worked at a basic level all the way up to a general level officer. I briefed the Commanding General. I was a helicopter pilot at 24 years old. I was a Green Beret. It takes courage to step into the fire. When you see someone coming at you, most people cower and hide — duck and cover. As Navy Seals and Green Berets, we go into harm’s way. We all would take the bullet to stop those innocent from having to deal with that. My military skill sets, my knowledge, being quick on my feet, being willing to go in harm’s way and go where no one else would go to protect the innocent. One of our mottos in the Green Berets is da oppressor Libra: to liberate the oppressed. Right now, I see that our country is oppressed because we’re all going in all different directions instead of coming together as one.

Q: Let’s say that the election is over and you’ve won. What are your legislative priorities and what bills have you thought about proposing later down the line? 

A: I will support any bill and every bill to get our economy up and running again. Let’s stop the inflation, let’s close the border, let’s stop the illegals. We have millions of illegals who have crossed the border and we can’t find them. Over a million this year. The executive order was signed, and they didn’t want to finish the last few miles of the wall. We’re a sovereign nation. You can’t be a sovereign nation if you leave your door open. Someone can come and *knock* you in the head. How would you like to walk into your dorm room, where someone is already sitting in your corner, eating out of your refrigerator? You could have another person in the shower because they came through the window. You expect privacy and you expect harmony. If you’re one nation, you come through the front door, you knock, you ring, you fill out the paperwork, you do the process properly. Right now, we have illegals who are getting more than the people who were born here, people who have immigrated here legally… Somebody is going to eat that cost, using other people’s money is what’s causing part of our problem. 

So you want to make sure that we can get things focused in the right direction. One of the things I will do is pass bills to get our pipelines running again, let’s get fracking going. Again, let’s make sure that Anwar and the Keystone pipelines are not losing the value that it gave us in terms of energy independence. We were the most energy independent nation in the world under President Trump for those four years. Four years ago, $1.50 – $1.77 was what we were paying for gasoline. Now. you’re paying $3.45. I have friends and relatives in California — six, seven and eight bucks. Fossil fuels: you just can’t shut it off and then turn on solar energy or electric vehicles overnight, there’s no infrastructure. Who’s going to pay for the trillions of dollars in an attempt to make that happen? 

So, my goal is to make sure we get those kinds of laws passed. Repeal laws that are not working. The ones that are over-taxing and giving away your money to people who could go to work, should go to work, but won’t go to work. That is called insanity. Pretty soon that leads to what happened to Venezuela. Venezuela was the richest country in South America. Every one of you should know that because if we don’t watch it, we will be just like Venezuela. At the rate we’re going, at the intensity of the stock market in our nation. 

When you don’t have law enforcement. You will get chaos. I’ve seen it happen in many countries around the world. I’ve watched where it falls apart, because then the criminals take over. So those millions of guys and gals that have come here from countries that hate us, they’re hiding in the woods in the streets right now. You think 9/11 was bad 21 years ago? You ain’t seen nothing yet. Because there are people who are trained and have come here purposely to put us in harm’s way. Thank God we got people and soldiers. 

You look at schools, and we need to make sure that we have school choice. The student should be able to go back to virtual school, home school, or to a parochial school to get a better education,  and be forced to take that knowledge and throw out knowledge that is not useful. Civics. You’re having to go to college to learn civics. When I was a young man, I was learning civics back in the fourth, fifth and sixth seventh grade. Understand the value of America. Self respect and selfless service. That’s part of the military way as well. 

Integrity is like the umbrella: it’s doing what’s expected of you when others are not looking. And how many of you would like to have your mom say “that was my son” burning down a Walgreens and stealing a TV from a store. It would be painful for your mom and dad. I don’t think they raised us to be afraid, and the alternative is living without law and order. We can’t win. We the People lose.

Q: As we all know, Florida experienced a major Hurricane. Moving forward, as a Representative, what would be your approach towards aiding the community in the event of a future natural disaster?

A: One of the first things I did, and I encourage you all to do, is sign up and get some FEMA courses under your belt. FEMA is there to help, but it also requires each of us to be on top of it. The hurricane that came through Florida is tragic. It came right through the I-4 quarters from Fort Myers, where I used to teach at Cape Coral High School. My former high school got wiped out; all that you saw down at the beach, my cadets and I would go there and we would do ceremonies. There are a lot of veterans down there that retired there because they did not need to be shoveling snow. We all came to Florida to have great weather 99% of the time but once in a while we have a hurricane that proves that we’re at the mercy of the Almighty Creator. And when the winds come, they will blow and if you build your structures in a weak domain, that can happen. 

First of all, there is infrastructure in place as we saw President Biden and President Governor DeSantis last week, there are statutes to ensure that there is a near rapid response to the needs that are facing our community. Politics doesn’t matter in a natural disaster. Among my team and I, I stopped. I said, “Timeout. We’re not campaigning. We’re going to work with our community.” 

If you look at my website, Facebook, Instagram, and others, (https://www.votecal2022.org/), I was out with my team giving blood the very next morning. We went down to One Blood, and I made a little video clip. This is a time for all good men and women who love their country, and who love those who they don’t even know, to come to their aid. Get out in the community. If you got a little raft or a boat or canoe, go out and help those who got flooded. I see that a lot of the mayors are talking about what they could have and should have done prior to the hurricane coming. But unfortunately, at the local levels, they can only do so much with the limited funds they have. But infrastructure has to be recognized as an important source in every city. I will work and lead legislature to make sure that the federal aid is as proportionally and quickly given to the states, and that the state governors do the best for their people. That’s important. I’m open to working with anyone and everyone to ensure safety and recovery.

Q: What is your approach to crime, particularly gun violence? 

A: First of all, crime is creeping in too rapidly in our communities. Everywhere you look, in places where people were once feeling comfortable, after the sun goes down, nobody wants to go out. If they do, because we’ve limited law enforcement’s ability to stop those who want to break and enter and rob and steal, they get away with everything. And so a lot of people who are elderly don’t want to go shopping, they go out early in the day and they go in groups. You have to be worried about who’s sneaking up behind you. You’ve seen young people sucker punching people, which is sick. What kind of mother or father wants to see their son or daughter doing that kind of thing? What does that tell you? We’re letting those who are maybe mentally ill or nuts start to rule, and when you take away the power of the people — especially your right to protect and defend your homeland — chaos will become the norm. You have all seen the movie The Godfather — we don’t need that kind of rule taking over our nation again. We’ve migrated from that. 

Peace comes through strength. We need to have both law enforcement and a military that people recognize will execute and go forward with the rules of law that are in place and apply them as you break the law, you need to do the time. That’s what Governor DeSantis has placed; you come to Florida, you do what you’re doing in New York and California, then you’re going to do the time. 

One death is too many, whether it’s a gun, rock, stick, or machete. The Second Amendment gives you a right to protect your family. It states right there, “without infringement.” Nothing more needs to be heard. 

When you take guns from law abiding citizens, guess what? “Hello, I’m a criminal. Guess what- it’s a gun free zone. Let’s go and take advantage of the people who are at risk.” It incentivises criminals. 

While it’s kind of hard when I think about it, most of the gun deaths involve suicide. You got a lot of crazy people, mentally ill people, who are on the streets. How many of you when you go downtown in Gainesville and you see some of the people who are out there waiting for you when you get ready to cross the street, putting their hand out? Rather than give people a hand out, we need to give them a hand up to rise up above their circumstances. 

My parents came from Danville, Virginia. Joe Biden went through there and said in my parents’ home county, both farm kids with no education, that if you don’t vote for Obama and I, and you vote for Republicans, they’re going to keep you in chains. My dad is 98 years old. My mom is 94. They have been married for 77 years. And you know what? My dad called me, “Boy, we got a problem.” There are no shackles and there are no chains. It’s all in our brain, but we choose to shape the mind that if we don’t be careful, America will be a slave state. It took people like Frederick Douglass to step up, who escaped, became educated, came back and went to the White House with Lincoln, helped bring blacks into the Union Army — he had his own two sons join the army — fighting for those who were still enslaved to get off the plantation. 

I’m telling America today. Stop letting yourself fall back to a plantation mentality. You learn history (and I love history), and you will realize that we’re getting ready to go back into a cycle that Martin Luther King said in Washington, D.C.: we’re setting ourselves up for failure. Why can’t all men — black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles — come together and join hands because he sought a vision for tomorrow? Let’s do the right things right. It’s all about the people, not about me. I have lived for this country, and I was willing to put my life at risk and die for this country. But I’ll be done if I’m going to stand here and watch my country die under my watch. It’s about your future. It’s about the next generation.

Q: What is your favorite memory as a JROTC instructor? 

A: When the students who thought they were the least valued in the group proved to be the best. When some of the young people who didn’t have a silver spoon, and a Mom and Dad who gave them everything, were able to step up and be the squad leaders, the platoon leaders, the company commander or the battalion commander. And when they showed the confidence, encouragement, and willingness to make a decision, right or wrong, but then be accountable for their actions in their decision. That is one of the greatest things that I always talk about. 

I have a card that I carry in my pocket — it’s called the Army Core Values. I’ve carried this card in my pocket for about 30 years. The core values are loyalty, duty, respect, selfless service, honor, integrity and personal courage. Every one of those things I think every student and every child is taught by their mom and dad. 

Both the mother and father are the beginning of what makes you who you are. Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs theory also talks about from birth until you are about eight-years old you are what you do, are you going to think more scientifically, are you going to be intellectual? Are you the kind of person who likes to do puzzles? Your creativity is created that way and watching my cadets form, and being able to build an order where they go from point X to point y; and how you’re going to get there was not a straight line. You have to go and maneuver through pitfalls and figure out how to navigate in the middle of night and with a compass in your hand. You don’t have your cell phones, we took them all the way. 

Now you have to navigate from point A to point B using the sun or the moon, or know how to track the stars. That builds confidence when you’re in survival mode. I know you all like to go camping or fishing, and what if you’re out in the middle of nowhere and all of a sudden your phone is dead? What are you gonna do when you run out of your favorite foods? What are you going to eat? These are things that I really enjoy teaching students- survival skills and being competent; to know how to make things work and working as a team. 

We got to have the rhythm of the beat in our country. And God bless those who founded this country. And the intent was to make sure that 247 years today, that we’re the greatest nation that has evolved. There is no other dynasty that has outdone the United States of America. I want our nation to get off the two edges of the couch and let’s get together. Let’s bring our country back. So you can be proud of America, as much as I believe I am proud to be an American.

Q: What is your message for Florida students? 

What a lot of Florida students don’t realize is that this is your land. You were blessed to be born in a country that gives you freedom. Under the Constitution, the United States was created for all men and women, regardless of where you came from. Faith, family and freedom. Those are the three basics that I have heard from every person that I’ve talked to. 

I talked to over 10,000-plus people to get on the ballot back in February, when I finally walked the streets. And everybody I’ve talked to, Hispanic, Black, Asian, people of different cultures from around the world, from Ukraine and Russia to Europe and South Africa. My daughter, my son, my wife, she’s Hawaiian and she was mixed with Korean and German. I’m all mixed up. We’re combinations, we didn’t ask for who we are. We woke up one day and finally we said oh, I guess I’m my mother and my dad’s child. Yes you are. But beauty is only skin deep. Your ugliness is to the bone. It’s not the color of your skin, it’s the content of character that really truly matters. 

When you say “I’m an American, I’m an American first. You know, we can have all of our opinions and everyone has one. But we don’t need to be like ostriches with our heads in the sand. Let’s get your heads up, be proud. Don’t let people stomp on your country flag. Be proud that you have the right to freedom. You know, we can stop the burden and indignation that comes with us. It’s hard out there right now, for all of us. The darkness at night before the daybreak. But let’s get America back on track. You have to get in a dark tunnel, and you see a little beam of light. Think about it this way: College students, you have a choice; is that the light of maybe a Mack truck or a freight train, about ready to run you over? Or is that the light of opportunity, trying to pull you through to say, “stop ripping your fists in anger.” Open up your life and your mind. It’s not all about you, it’s all about the people that you have to work with. You do that, and you can help make this country a better country than it’s ever been. My motto is “let’s make America better than it has ever been before.” All these acronyms don’t mean squat until you put it to good work. Don’t shut down our law enforcement. Frost wants to shut down the Orlando Police Department down here. Don’t tell me that. Smoking marijuana is cool, so let’s make it nationally legal because one leads to the other. We got young people using drugs because they think it’s cool. Every generation has done that before. But they also found out how dumb it was. Don’t keep repeating the same mistakes over and over, but sometimes human nature makes people do that. 

Fentanyl is killing kids. And they got it color coded and it makes it look like candy and popcorn. This is wrong. We got to shut the door down. Those illegal drugs, human trafficking, smuggling- all the criminals are coming in here. They’re out to destroy the fiber of America because we are a country that’s on a hill to shine a light. And people like to destroy this light. I’m standing tall and I want you all to stand tall. Say not on your watch. I want your children to feel comfortable that when mom or dad lets them into this world, you welcome them in. When you make that decision, remember, accountability and responsibility. Men need to be responsible as well as the woman to make that decision. Don’t be a grown up with a mentality of a fifth grader. What about the child who can’t speak? That is not right, because we wouldn’t be having this conference right now. And neither would Maxwell Frost because his mother allowed him to stay into this world so he can come into this world. Life is beautiful.

By Maria Varas, Kelly Ralph and Brandon Lancho

Check out other recent articles from the Florida Political Review here.

Featured image: Florida Political Review candidate Q&A graphic depicting Calvin Wimbish. Image by Maria Varas.