TIME Newsmaker Interview

Univision’s Jorge Ramos Calls Obama’s Immigration Actions a ‘Triumph For The Latino Community’

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Jorge Ramos’ Sunday-morning show, Al Punto, often draws more young viewers than its English-language competitors Photograph by Charles Ommanney for TIME

The most influential Latino news anchor is taking a stand and wants you to notice

Shortly after President Obama scheduled his Thursday primetime address to announce new executive actions on immigration, his top White House communications advisor, Dan Pfeiffer, took to Twitter to boast. “Great timing,” he wrote, noting a rather glaring non-coincidence.

As it turned out, Obama had arranged to start speaking at the very moment Univision, America’s largest Spanish-language television network, planned to begin broadcasting the 2015 Latin Grammy Awards, one of the network’s biggest shows of the year, with a 2014 viewership of nearly 10 million.

Indeed, Univision promptly announced that it would delay the start of the live event to take Obama’s remarks, in translation, ensuring the President a massive platform in the most crucial political demographic, even as many of the English-language networks said they would skip the address. The chances are high that the leading lights of Latin pop music will follow up his words tonight with on-stage celebrations of the President’s actions.

The White House, not to mention its Republican rivals, long ago learned the power of a network most American cannot even understand. And at the center of that network is one of the most aggressive and influential newsmen in America, Jorge Ramos, who I profile in this week’s TIME magazine. (The full article is available to subscribers. Subscribe here for the print and digital versions; it costs just $40 a year.)

It is an exciting time for Ramos, who in recent years has remade himself as a bilingual journalist agitator, fighting for his audience to get immigration reforms in the United States and political reformation in his native Mexico. “It’ll be a triumph for the Latino community,” Ramos wrote to me in an email yesterday, after the President’s announcement was set. “It’ll demonstrate our newfound power. This is not something that we got; this is something that we fought for.”

For Ramos, the importance of the move was difficult to overstate. “This will be the most important immigration measure in 50 years—since the 1965 change in immigration law. In terms of numbers, it’ll have a wider impact than the 1986 amnesty,” he continued. “Although, it’ll be temporary, Republicans will have a very hard time rejecting it and not being seen as anti-immigrant or anti-Latino. Also, this will have a tremendous impact on the 2016 presidential campaign.”

If you don’t know who Ramos is, you probably will soon. He is the host to Noticiero Univision, a nightly Spanish language newscast; Al Punto, a Spanish-language Sunday political show and America with Jorge Ramos, an English language news magazine on Fusion. (His Univision news shows regularly beat their English language rivals among young viewers.) He writes a bilingual newspaper column that published internationally, and appears regularly as a pundit on English-language cable networks, like CNN and MSNBC. Polls among the U.S. Latino community rank him as the most trusted and influential Hispanic in America, beating all other political leaders, and his Q-score among Latino audiences places him between soccer magus Lionel Messi and the pop starlet Shakira.

You can read more about him, his activism, and his troublemaking approach to journalism in the magazine. But I have posted below some lightly edited excerpts from one of our interviews. We spoke about the scandals in Mexico, his past interviews with Mexico’s current President and some allegations that have been hurled against Grupo Televisa, the Mexican media giant that is one of the owners of Univision. We also spoke about the difficult balance he strikes between journalist and advocate.

TIME: So if you say that if [Obama grants legal status to] two million, the White House is being too timid. How do you know? What are you basing that on?

JORGE RAMOS: It’s very simple. We have at least eleven million people who are in this country as undocumented, without papers. So if you’re only going to help two million, it is not enough. It is clearly timid and wouldn’t be bold enough. Of course you will change the lives of two million people. But it is not what is expected from the community. And we’ve got to say that. The problem has to do with the expectations. When Obama came to power in 2008, right before the election, he promised us that he was going to introduce immigration reform during his first year in office.

What is the outer edge of how far you would be willing to go as a journalist who wants to advocate for his audience?

The limit is, I am a registered Independent. I would never say to whom I vote. I would never pressure anyone to vote for one party or another. That would be way too much.

What is your role as one of the few journalists from Latin America who can actually get [interviews with Latin American political leaders] interviews on television, and then ask whatever question you want? Do you feel an accountability role for those countries? Are you serving those populations too?

Well what I can tell you for instance is I feel with much more freedom to ask those questions. Because I can come back to the States and enjoy complete freedom of speech. If I had stayed in Mexico, instead of coming to the United States, I am absolutely convinced that I would have been a censored journalist. And a very sad one. Because I wouldn’t have been able to ask the same questions that I ask from this side of the border. There’s no question about it. There’s no question that I have more freedom than many journalists in Mexico who are criticizing the Mexican president.

Do you think [Mexican President Enrique] Peña Nieto lied to you when he said I’m not a millionaire?

I don’t know. But my role is to question him. And my role is to make sure that he’s not lying. And if he’s lying, that he’s accountable for that. And this is new.

In one of your columns recently you suggested that it wouldn’t be a bad idea if the Mexican legislature to try to take him from office?

But no one is doing that, no one is doing that.

You were suggesting it, no?

I’m reporting that there are thousands of Mexican who want Peña Nieto to quit, no? To resign. So here’s what I think our role as journalists—Congress is not investigating Peña Nieto. The Attorney General is not investigating Peña Nieto. Most of the media in Mexico are not questioning Peña Nieto. So somebody has to do it. And I think it is our role to do that. Precisely to do that. And I have the opportunity to do it from the United States to question what Peña Nieto is doing, what President Maduro is doing in Venezuela. With much more freedom than Mexican and Venezuelan journalists. I mean there is no freedom of speech in Venezuela. So how can you question President Maduro from Venezuela?

Do you think Televisa played a nontransparent role in the election of Peña Nieto?

What I can say is that Peña Nieto spent much more, much, much more than all the other candidates. And that millions of Mexicans question if he won fairly, no? And that’s – and that might be even an understatement. And that’s why Peña Nieto I think right now is having serious problems. Not only with his complete failure when it comes to security issues. And a questionable house owned by his wife. But also in terms of being legitimate in front of millions of Mexicans who don’t think that he won fairly.

My favorite line from [your book] Lo Que Vi is where you say that the joy of being a journalist is that you can preserve the restlessness and rebelliousness of youth.

That’s beautiful. I’m 56 and I still have the privilege of acting as a young reporter. Which is beautiful. Because when you’re young, young, you’re questioning everything. As a journalist you are forced to question everyone all the time. And therefore stay young, no? And that’s the beautiful part. And then, what I found fascinating about our profession is that you can actually talk to those who are never used to being questioned. And look, it’s only—we consider it only philosophically as journalists that it is truly our role to question those who are in power. And I think our most important social responsibility is to make sure that they don’t abuse their power. And I think this comes from being brought up in a very close, censored society like the Mexican society. But then, if I apply the same model here to the United States, then I very early understood that my role was to represent a minority. To represent Latinos, and especially to represent immigrants. For many different reasons. First because I’m an immigrant. I mean I can’t avoid that.

In one of the Fusion pieces you did on the border, you were standing next to the fence and you said it reminds you of the Berlin Wall. Why?

Because it is incredible, that nowadays you have open borders in Europe. And that’s a taboo issue here in the United States. I mean you can go – a few months ago I went from Spain to France, I paid 6 Euros at the border. There was no police, no agent, no one stopping me. And here in the United States, we can’t even discuss the possibility of something like that. I’m not arguing for open borders. But it’s a taboo issue.

Do you feel that your responsibility at Univision or here is to challenge your audience as well? The representing them and talking about DREAMERS and talking about what Boehner’s obstructing. Do you try and do stories on the other side of immigration? Like the unions being upset that wages on jobs are going down in meat packingplants because there’s undocumented workers working in them?

Of course, yeah but I think we have to concentrate on the really big issues. And the really big issues is that you have a community that is underrepresented politically. You have a community with eleven million people who are living in the shadows and in fear. And we only have three senators. We are 17% of the population. And we only have three senators.

And two of them don’t say what most of the population [says on immigration].

Exactly. So I think that explains why our role on Univision and on Fusion is different than what you would expect from NBC, ABC, or CBS, CNN and Fox News. Because a population who has no voice, or very little, or very few voices, needs to express themselves. I mean who is going to speak for all of the immigrants in this country? I mean who is going to tell John Boehner that he is blocking immigration reform? I mean, who is going to say that? It was – in an ideal world, one Latino senator and many members of congress of Hispanic origin would have gone to Boehner and told him in his face, you’re blocking immigration reform. That didn’t happen. So it is our role to do that.

Democrats [have] said—and you know these people and they’ve said it to you—that you’ve been unfair to the President because he’s the greatest President ever for the Latino community if you look at his push for minimum wage which disproportionally helps [Latinos], Obamacare covering Latinos disproportionately, economic progress, there are some measures that Latinos are improving, coming out of poverty quicker than others. What do you say to that criticism?

Well that he just didn’t keep his promise in the most important, symbolic issue for Latinos. When you have a community in which one out of two members is a foreigner, and you don’t deal with that issue as you promised, of course you’re going to be criticized. But I think I’ve been – as a journalist more than being objective, I think my role is to try to be fair. I try to be fair with both democrats and Republicans. I criticize fiercely President Obama for not keeping his word. For delaying action on immigration. And I’ve criticized fiercely Republicans for blocking immigration reform. They will lose the White House if they continue doing that. So I think, in that sense, I’ve been fair, or if you want, unfair to both.

TIME Newsmaker Interview

Eric Cantor’s Secrets for Negotiating with Joe Biden

Joe Biden
U.S. Vice President Joe Biden speaks during the Civil Society Forum on the sideline of the U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit in Washington, D.C., on Aug. 4, 2014 Jewel Samad—AFP/Getty Images

"The Guy's Awesome"

Last week’s Republican victories may have had the paradoxical effect of increasing the influence of the consummate Congressional Democrat, Joe Biden. GOP leaders looking to show they can get things done now that control both the House and Senate will need to cut deals with the Obama White House, and Vice President Joe Biden may be their best hope to do so.

On Tuesday, TIME spoke with one of the closest observers of Biden’s negotiating tactics, his long-time sparring partner and former House Majority Leader, Eric Cantor, now vice chairman and at the investment bank Moelis & Company. As the number two Republican in the House for the first six years of the Obama administration, and a constant thorn in the side of the White House on issues like the budget, energy, immigration and health care, Cantor saw Biden’s techniques up close.

You’ve spent a lot of time negotiating with Vice President Biden. What was that like?

Cantor: Unquestionably, the Vice President knows how to negotiate. He understands people. And in my professional background, before I got to Congress and certainly now in the private world at Moelis & Company and in Congress, if you’re interested in doing deals, and getting a result, what I think what one needs to do is be able to size people up. And this is what Joe Biden has always been about in my experience. He is able to size up where the opposition is. He’s firmly rooted in his direction, what he needs to accomplish in the negotiations, and then understands how far you can push and not lose a result or a deal.

My real experience is from the extended time we spent together in the summer of 2011 around the debt ceiling discussions. As you recall, the Speaker had asked me to serve on the Biden commission. The President had basically formed it and put the Vice President in charge. And there were a handful of us in the room for seven weeks almost, three days a week, two and a half hours a day. And the Vice president was the only one, and that commission was the only entity that really came up with a list of spending reductions that both sides could agree to.

Now, he would always say nothing was agreed to unless everything is agreed to. But nonetheless, work was done in the granularity of the programs that were targeted. Nothing was ever agreed to universally because the tax question came up and that’s what kicked it back to the White House and we all had to come back to the White House for two weeks with the President and then ultimately that ended with the Super Committee creation. But if you look at what has transpired since then, the Super Committee, the fiscal cliff, Murray-Ryan, all of that, the work that came out of Joe Biden’s commission is the common theme. And I believe that is attributable to his negotiating skills and ability to cut through—to set aside what you don’t agree on and try to come to a result.

What was the difference in negotiating with the President compared to the Vice President:

Cantor: I just think that the President obviously doesn’t have the tenure in Washington in negotiating deals that the Vice President’s had. Just in terms of pure time. And I think that the President is very rooted in what he wants. The President also, in my view, is very rooted in what he thinks the other side wants. And that’s where the difficulty in my opinion has been with the President over the last six years. If one does not agree with the President’s view of what you want, there’s very little prospect for a result. Joe Biden has a real sensitivity, not only to human reaction, but also partisan and political sensitivities. He understands how far you can push before you just blow up the prospects for a deal.

One readout of last week’s White House meeting suggested that the Vice President got ahead of Obama’s position on immigration reform in a desire to cut a deal. Have you seen that happen before?

Cantor: Honestly, the whole sense of the discussion around the initial debt ceiling talks in 2011 was just that. The president had dispatched the Vice President to come up with areas that could become part of a larger deal. And really the Vice President was very clear and never hid anything from me. He said in order to get any of the kinds of things we’re discussing, the President is going to want some kind of revenue increase. He laid it all out on the table. ‘That’s what we need.’ And I indicated what we needed and that we couldn’t go for tax increases. So I think there has certainly been evidence that the Vice President is a negotiator, he wants to cut through and get a deal done.

I think that on the fiscal cliff deal, when he struck that agreement with McConnell, that was the last time that the President wanted Joe Biden involved. And this is unfortunately what the pattern has been. Hopefully, I think the President may see the light and say if you want to get a deal done, bring in the deal man, Joe Biden.

What’s the current state of the Biden-McConnell relationship?

Cantor: I can’t speak for McConnell. But I do… stay in touch with [Biden]. He stays in touch with people. Part of the ability to do deals is to know both sides and to understand their thought process and their political priorities and imperatives. My sense would be, if I’m like others, Joe Biden has maintained those relationships. And that’s one of the striking differences between the President and Vice President. The President has not spent the time necessary even while he’s been in office the last six years, much less before, developing, nurturing relationships and understanding people’s thinking. And that is a huge impediment to the President’s ability to do a deal, whereas I think Joe Biden has been schooled in that way.

How did you try to square the Vice President’s public image with his negotiating record?

Cantor: Joe Biden is what you see. You know, he’s genuine. Yes, he’s prone to gaffes publicly, and he’ll admit that. He’s very self-deprecating like that. And I’m certainly not one who agrees with Joe Biden on all things—we probably disagree more than we agree—but from a human and relationship standpoint, the guy’s awesome.

Do you think the midterms opened up the possibility for deal-making?

Cantor: I really think that there’s going to be a trial period here. And I really look at the next six weeks as that. From the White House standpoint, if the president signs an executive order on immigration unilaterally that will not bode well for the productivity of the next Congress. Again, I think that’s the trial issue for the president.

From Congress’ standpoint, their job is to get done the omnibus/minibus spending package. Because if they kick the can and decide to push the [longer-term spending bill] into the next Congress so they don’t have to “negotiate” with the other side, I think that leaves wide open the chance of mischief and derailing of the path to productivity.

Do you think last week’s election paved the way for a more united GOP conference, or will leadership still have difficulty keeping members in line.

Cantor: In my experience, I think the latter would probably be [a more likely] reality. And it’s always going to be a challenge for leadership. I do think in the House, the Speaker and the Leader are going to have a much larger majority now that hopefully will be more inclined to follow the path laid out by the Speaker and the leadership. If we can see the House and Senate to really begin to move legislation across the floor—and some of the legislation and probably a lot of it will not be to the White House’s liking—there’s something about that that may lend itself to a more espirit de corps, if you will, for folks to hang together because they’re winning, they’re getting legislation across the floor, they’re getting it out of Congress, sending it to the President’s desk and then it would be incumbent on the President to respond.

I think if you can see some real legislative productivity on the Hill that may lend itself to the larger majorities now hanging with leadership more.

TIME Newsmaker Interview

Mary Landrieu Talks to TIME About the Fight of Her Political Life

Sen. Landrieu Gathers With Supporters On Election Night In New Orleans
U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-LA) gathers with supporters during midterm elections at the Hyatt Regency in New Orleans on Nov. 4, 2014. Stacy Revere—Getty Images

The senior Senator from Louisiana talks hardball politics and Keystone XL at a campaign stop in New Orleans

Mary Landrieu did not look like a politician on the brink of extinction as she arrived at the National World War II Museum’s crowded Veterans Day get-together in her hometown of New Orleans on Tuesday. With the hulks of retired warplanes suspended overhead, the senior Senator from Louisiana made her way toward the stage through a sea of smiles, handshakes and hugs from old friends. She stopped for a chat with the New Orleans Maritime Marine Academy Band before taking a seat on stage next to the mayor, who is also her little brother.

But as the Senate Democrats’ final flag-bearer in the Deep South, Landrieu is every bit the last of an endangered political species. In a three-way contest on Election Day earlier this month, she finished first with 42% compared to 40% for Republican Rep. Bill Cassidy and 14% for Tea Party favorite Rob Maness. Landrieu and Cassidy now go head-to-head in a runoff Dec. 6, and many of Maness’ supporters are expected to back her Republican opponent.

Landrieu has been all but abandoned by the national Democratic Party ahead of the runoff. Cassidy and his supporters have paid for 96% of the ads aired since the runoff began, while the national Democratic campaigns have pulled virtually all of their money out of the race.

But Landrieu is putting a brave face on it. Democrats throughout the South took an Election Day beating in part because voters saw the midterms as a referendum on President Obama, Landrieu says. With the GOP soon to be in control of the Senate, the Republican majority is no longer at stake and Landrieu hopes that fact will give her space to focus the race back on Louisiana. “We have the race that we want!” she declared after results came in election night.

The magic number for Landrieu to win that race is “30″, say campaign aides. Black voters, a solidly Democratic constituency, must comprise 30% of the electorate and she’s got to win 30% of white votes, the aides say. She has a ways to go to make those numbers. On November 4, she took just 18% of white votes—if she hopes to keep her job she’ll have to win over the rest.

To get there, Landrieu is playing up her more than 18 years as a moderate deal-maker in the Senate and her lengthy record of bringing home the proverbial bacon. Among the projects she has managed to bring to Louisiana, Landrieu reminded the crowd on Veterans Day, was the National World War II Museum in which they were all gathered.

After speeches from Landrieu, her brother Mitch the mayor, Republican Sen. David Vitter and Marine Corps Colonel Bradley Weisz (who was the only speaker all day to mention President Obama), Landrieu sat down with TIME to discuss her uphill political battle.

TIME: You mentioned after the election that this is the campaign you’ve always wanted. Why? The numbers are daunting—

Sen. Mary Landrieu: Hold on. The campaign I wanted is a campaign against Bill Cassidy. Not against the entire anger at the national government. And the first race was so much anger about gridlock in Washington, now that that race is over the Republicans have taken control of the Senate. Mitch McConnell is now going to be the Majority Leader. Barack Obama has been in some ways repudiated by the voters nationally. Not personally, but some of his policies. I think now voters here can focus on what’s best for Louisiana. So this is the race that I’ve wanted to run, between Mary Landrieu and Bill Cassidy. Running on my record against his record. And if we can get voters to focus on that I’m confident of a victory.

In recent days you’ve been highlighting things like the gender gap, the minimum wage, issues that particularly affect women.

OK, yes but what you need to be corrected on is that I’ve been highlighting those issues since the first day of the campaign. You would write it wrong. This is not a recent switch. I’ve been talking about minimum wage, pay equity, Lilly Ledbetter, since the first day of this campaign because economic issues are really at the heart of what Louisiana voters want to focus on. Oil and gas jobs, worker training, the skills gap, fair wages and benefits. I’ve talked about that since the first day of the campaign.

Now, a lot of that’s been drowned out by my opponent who won’t discuss that in any way, shape or form. All he wants to talk about is the President. And, as I’ve said, I’ve now worked with three presidents, six governors and four majority leaders. The race that I want to run is a race about: Has Mary Landrieu delivered for Louisiana? And what has she done? And what kind of teams has she built? What kind of record does she have versus Bill Cassidy. If I can get that race, we will win. I will win.

With Republicans in control of the Senate is Keystone XL going to go through?

That’s a good question. We’re actually very close to getting Keystone passed right now. I’ve been working very hard on a stand alone vote on Keystone. You might think that it’ll be easier in January but you would be jumping to a conclusion that’s not yet proven, because in order to get Keystone passed, remember, it has to be passed by the House and the same bill by the Senate and then signed into law by the President. So, if you think about getting a clean bill, like my bill, like the one I have with Hoeven, it’s a Hoeven-Landrieu bill, it has 45 Republican co-sponsors plus a few Democrats. A clean stand-alone Keystone bill could potentially pass right now.

So when you ask me is it going to be easier, I can’t say yes because in January the Republicans may put a bill together with Keystone and let’s say five other things. See that? And then it passes the House and then it fails in the Senate, or it passes the House, the Senate and the President vetoes it. So my answer is: it is possible right now, right now, I think, to get a clean Keystone bill passed that the President to the United States could actually sign.

You were chatting with the kids in the Marine band over there. What were you talking about?

Well, I’m a huge supporter of the creation of this school. I’ve led the fight here in Louisiana on charter schools. I’m an elected leader on public charter schools. I’ve helped to create more charter schools per capita than anywhere else in the nation. So I visit them frequently and I was just saying that I’ll be there to see them again. Their school is growing. As I said in my speech, we have two charter military schools, first in the nation, and we’re really proud of that. The Pentagon and the military are really interested in using that model all over the country for other schools.

TIME Newsmaker Interview

Kasich Takes the Stage

John Kasich
Ohio Governor John Kasich speaks to supporters at the Ohio Republican Party celebration in Columbus, Ohio on Nov. 4, 2014. Tony Dejak—AP

After resounding re-election, the Ohio governor looks to his next campaign.

Less than a week after a rousing, victorious ending to one campaign, newly re-elected Ohio Gov. John Kasich looks as if he’s preparing for another, this time on the national stage.

Throughout his first term as governor, the Republican struggled to manage the complicated politics of his swing state, taking criticism from the left for scaling back the influence of public sector unions and from the right for accepting federal money from Obamacare to expand Medicaid. But his do-it-my-way message worked. Three years ago, Kasich was so unpopular his re-election was a longshot. On Tuesday, he won by 32 percentage points in one of the most politically polarized states in the nation, making inroads with women and minorities across the state, as he scooped up independent votes.

The performance instantly made Kasich a presidential contender—donors are already reaching out with invitations and Republican groups are inviting him to speak. Kasich, 62, isn’t shying away from the attention, but he’s not in a hurry either. Speaking with TIME Monday afternoon, the Governor said he wasn’t ready to decide whether to run for the White House. But he showed signs he is seriously considering it: in the coming months, for example, Kasich will launch a national campaign in support of a Balanced Budget Amendment to the Constitution, just the sort of crypto-campaign that can test the presidential waters and build a national brand.

Kasich ran unsuccessfully for president once before, in 2000. At the time, he was a 16-year incumbent in the House of Representatives and Chairman of the House Budget Committee, and his campaign never gained traction: he bowed out even before the Iowa Straw Poll as George W. Bush dominated attention of the political and donor classes.

If he runs again, Kasich would likely find it easier to gain traction in a crowded, but divided field. That’s due in part to the good fortune Ohio has seen over the last few years. Though his re-election was buoyed by the implosion of his Democratic opponent’s scandal-plagued campaign in August, Kasich also took credit for the state’s booming economy.

In an interview with TIME, Kasich talked about his victory, what he hopes to accomplish in his second term, and how he’s working to maintain work-life balance as he contemplates his political future.

You won re-election by 32 points…in Ohio. How did that happen?

Kasich: I think that we had a program that covered really—I like to call it the 360 program. We build a stronger economy; help with tax cuts and some reform of regulations, and balancing budgets and all of that. The economy is so much stronger than when I came in four years ago. And in addition to that, once the economy’s strong, which is the most important thing you can do, then you have an obligation to help the people I like to say live in the shadows. So, whether it’s the mentally ill, the drug addicted, the working poor, we’ve been able to get insurance for families that have an autistic child, the developmentally disabled have been helped. Minorities feel now—I can’t speak for all of them—but a number of the leaders feel there is a place for them. So everyone was included, Ohio is doing better, and I think it’s become a lot more united. And I think as a result of that, that’s why you get results. We’re basically an ideas administration. We don’t rest on our laurels, we don’t play a lot of politics. We look at problems, try to fix them, and come up with new and cool things that’ll help the state.

How would you classify your politics? Are you preaching compassionate conservativism?

Kasich: Well no one’s ever been able to put me in a box and I’m not about to start putting myself in there.

What does your re-election mean for Ohio and its politics?

I don’t think there’s a sea change. People today, not just in Ohio, but in the country, they want solutions. They want to believe that things are going to get better. We have for the first time in a dozen years 60% of Ohioans feel that the state is headed in the right direction. I think it should not be interpreted as anything other than you ought to come to Ohio, you gotta tell people what you want to do and how their lives are going to be improved. And whoever does the best job of that is the person who’s going to have the best results.

What’s your top priority for the second term?

Kasich: It’s going to be a lot more of the same. It’s job creation, making sure that our safety net programs are only a net and not a trap. That they have to provide an opportunity for people to get on their feet. Continuing to include all Ohioans in what we do. It’s education, it’s workforce, it’s reforming higher ed. We can chew gum and walk at the same time out here. We’ll have a very expansive agenda.

Your victory is already starting talk about you running for president in 2016.

Kasich: Well, what I’m excited about is that people are showing a lot of interest in the things that we’ve done out here, and I think that’s good. That makes me happy—it’s pleasing to me, I should say—that people are going to take a very hard look at what we’re doing here. And I think the process of being hopeful, being really opportunity oriented, not just in rhetoric but in action, showing that no one get’s left behind, not just by talking about it but by doing it, I think is really a key. And not just sitting around with your finger in the air trying to figure out who’s going to like what you do. Take into account where the public is, but lead, lead. Don’t try to just figure out what the polls say, what the poll-driven programs are. I mean, I don’t look at polls, I pay no attention to them. I’m going to pay attention to the public, and the sense of where the public is on certain things, but you have to lead. And so I’m pleased that as a result of this—it was really an unbelievable win—that people are going to start to say how did it happen. And they are saying it now. It gives me a chance to talk about what I think public life ought to be about, which is to lift everyone. It’s not about what your party is, it’s not about which group do you appeal to, it’s about being in this and trying to build and trying to lift everyone, regardless of who they are, regardless of whether they vote for you. That’s not the point of this business.

Do you think too many politicians are too focused on the polls?

Kasich: Why don’t you decide that.

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker appeared to criticize you over the weekend for taking Medicaid expansion funding. How do you defend it?

Kasich: I don’t defend it, I’m for it. I’m not defending anything.

Have you seen those comments?

Kasich: No, I really don’t have any reaction—I haven’t seen these comments, it wouldn’t matter if I did see them. You know, we’re doing what we’re doing here in Ohio, and it’s working for people. It’s helping people, it’s lifting people, and that’s what I’m so comfortable with and very pleased about.

So you’d use a presidential campaign to spread your message?

Kasich: I’m going to be spreading it one way or another. I’m going to be out campaigning aggressively for a balanced budget amendment, I assume I’m going to be making some speeches, where people are going to want to say ‘tell us what you did.’ And, I’m not kind of anxious to… You know, we only did a handful of interviews. I think I was asked to go on virtually every show, and I just sort of said, look, we just had an election. It’s an important time to get some rest, to recharge the batteries.

That must be hard, trying to decompress after the campaign?

Kasich: I was telling one of my colleagues the other day, I was a congressman for 18 years and in the legislature for four and at that point my job really overshadowed my life. But I’ve got a good mix between doing my job, having that responsibility, and having a normal life. And I live in my own home, I don’t live in the governors’ mansion. I play golf, I work out, I lead a very normal life, which probably surprises a lot of people. It’s not unusual to see me just right in the neighborhood. But in terms of the campaign, that’s a little bit of a different situation. Let me just give you some statistics. In less than three years, I put 250,000 miles on the cars in which I travel. And in the last 100 days, since Labor Day, I think I did well over 100 events. So it’s like running a marathon with a sprint at the end, which of course all great marathoners do, and at some point you’ve got to stop running and rest up. So I’m trying to get away from it. I’m trying to recharge. It’s important if you want to have good perspective, you’ve got to make sure that you’re rested. So I’m working at it. I’m exercising, I’m playing golf, I’m trying to get away, spend some time with my family. But I think I have a ways to go before I’m fully recharged.

TIME ebola

This Texas Judge Is Fighting Fear and Ebola in Dallas

First Ebalo case diagnosed in the United States
Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins speaks to the media during a press conference on the status of Ebola patient Thomas Eric Duncan in Dallas, on Oct. 2, 2014. Larry W. Smith—EPA

Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins tells TIME about the challenges of an Ebola emergency in America

Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins is the first local elected official in the world to oversee the emergency response to a case of Ebola diagnosed outside of Africa. From the moment he took charge of coordinating the Dallas response, after a man visiting from Liberia tested positive for the disease, he’s found himself with responsibilities he never anticipated. He made a point of visiting the home of the infected man without protective clothing, took the responsibility for driving his quarantined family to their new home, and has been doing what he can to coordinate the state and federal response, while keeping his voters calm.

None of that means he had to miss this week’s Cowboys game. During a moment of relative calm away from the Emergency Command Center that hums with activity from 7 in the morning to around 10 at night, TIME caught up with Jenkins in his downtown office Sunday at the old Texas School Book Depository, across the street from Dealey Plaza and the grassy knoll. He was wearing a black shirt with “Homeland Security” emblazoned on it, meeting with staff and catching the end of the NFL game between the Dallas Cowboys and the Houston Texans. They were tied 17-17. I sat with my back to the TV so Jenkins could watch the game as we spoke about the moment on Tuesday September 30 that he heard Ebola might be in Dallas.

“We’ve got a hospital with 10,000 employees, I’ve got a county with 6,000 employees and I’m the highest elected official in that county, so things are happening all the time and that’s one data point that was happening,” he said. “I wasn’t envisioning that an instant command structure would be requested by our federal and state partners and that I’d be all that involved in that, at that point.”

Judges in Texas are the highest administrative officials in each county, with extraordinary powers that are a vestige of the Old West when a rural judge could make a claim as broad as “I am the law” without being too far off the mark. In Dallas today, the County Judge has two main responsibilities: get truant children back into school and, in the event of a disaster, lead the county’s response as the Director of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness.

A Democrat first elected to office in 2010, Jenkins cut his teeth in emergency response with an outbreak of West Nile virus in in 2012. Earlier this year he stirred up controversy by offering Dallas County facilities to house undocumented immigrant children flooding across the U.S.-Mexico border. He’s up for re-election in just a few weeks.

By Wednesday afternoon, after Ebola test results came back positive and following a series of meetings between officials from Texas, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the White House, Jenkins was firmly in charge. That night he and others began sorting through the immediate challenges ahead: getting the infected man Thomas Eric Duncan’s potentially-toxic belongings out of the North Dallas apartment where he’d been staying, identifying and monitoring every person with whom Duncan may have come in contact, and, Jenkins said, finding a better living situation for Duncan’s partner Louise Troh and the three young men who had been placed under quarantine with her in the apartment. Law enforcement officers stood outside the door blocking the family’s exit from a home where they were forced to stay with linens stained with the sweat of a man infected with one of the most deadly diseases known to man.

“One of the first things we wanted to do is move the family,” Jenkins said. “The problem is that when you’ve got Ebola, it’s very difficult to find somebody that wants to open up a shelter or a home or rent to you even if you want to pay for it.” Jenkins said his office called the Greater Dallas Apartment Association, the Dallas Housing Authority and “basically called through every listed renter in Dallas.” All turned them down.

As much as with Ebola itself, Jenkins has been doing battle a contagion that can under the wrong circumstances turn just as deadly: fear. If people with the sniffles convinced they have Ebola start overfilling the Dallas-area’s already stressed emergency rooms—Texas has the highest rate of uninsured citizens in the country—perfectly treatable infirmities could become more lethal. If scared parents keep their kids out of school too long, it creates a whole separate problem in the education system—one, as it happens, that Jenkins would also be responsible for fixing.

That is why Jenkins obsessively reminds anyone who will listen of Ebola’s achilles heel: it isn’t contagious unless a person is showing symptoms of the disease. It’s the key both to stopping pandemic fear from disrupting day to day life and to defeating Ebola itself. Isolate and monitor the health of everyone who might be infected for a 21 day incubation period and, if they are symptom free, they’re healthy and you’ve beaten the disease.

To get this point across, Jenkins has employed some unorthodox tactics over the past week, like walking into an apartment where an Ebola patient had been staying without protective gear. Clearing the apartment of both contaminated linens and the symptom-free people in it was delayed by permitting issues and “that’s when I went out to see Louise and the young men,” Jenkins said, “to go into their apartment and see them as human beings and explain to them the situation.” But by entering the apartment Jenkins was also, at least as importantly, sending the message to the wider world that hazmat suits milling around or not these people, lacking any symptoms, were incapable, even if infected, of passing along Ebola.

Unsuccessful in finding anywhere else for Louise and the young men to stay, Jenkins said he called a local faith leader. “What I told them is there is literally no more room at the inn and I need your help,” he said.

The same impetus that led him to enter the apartment helps explain Jenkins’ decision to drive the family himself to their new home. Philip Haigh, a member of Jenkins’ executive staff, was initially set to drive the Ford Explorer while Jenkins rode along and spoke with the family but when they couldn’t all fit because a seat couldn’t be raised out of the down position Jenkins took the wheel and Haigh rode behind in a police cruiser.

“The sheriff’s deputy that I ended up riding with initially didn’t shake my hand because he was afraid that I had gotten too close to the scene,” Haigh told TIME. By driving the car himself, Jenkins sent the same message as before to first responders: until a person show’s symptoms, Ebola isn’t contagious and fear itself is the greater enemy.

Jenkins drove Troh and the three men to their new temporary home, where, according two people who have spoken with her on the phone, Troh is comfortable and understandably glad to be away from the apartment in which she was imprisoned the better part of a week. “They can go outside, they have room to roam,” Jenkins said. “It’s the kind of place that a young man can go out and exercise and even explore. Walk around. It’s a large premises away from other people.”

After dropping off the family Jenkins spoke to the press. “I’m wearing the same shirt I was when I was in the car for 45 minutes today with that family,” he said. “If there was any risk, I wouldn’t expose myself or my family.”

For now, pandemic fear has not gripped the better part of the Dallas area. Life goes on as before, except among the Liberian community here, where rumors fly about stigmatization at work and school and people typically prone to warm embraces keep their distance even from each other. With Louise Troh and the boys in a safe place and everyone who Duncan may have interacted with identified, Jenkins’ office must now wait and hope: that Thomas Eric Duncan survives and that no one else gets sick.

In the meantime, there was some good news. The Cowboys won Sunday with a field goal in overtime.

TIME Newsmaker Interview

Supermodel Andreja Pejic on the Reaction to Her Gender Transition

Andrej Pejic is seen in Soho on Sept. 8, 2014 in New York City.
Andreja Pejic is seen in Soho on Sept. 8, 2014 in New York City. Raymond Hall—GC Images/Getty Images

And life as a transgender Serbian refugee

Before she started filming a documentary about her male-to-female gender transition, before she appeared on the cover of New York magazine or became an international supermodel prized for her androgynous look, even before she was discovered by a talent scout while working at a McDonald’s in Australia, Andreja Pejic was known to the world as Andrej, a little boy growing up in a Serbian refugee camp during the Bosnian War.

She has since rocketed to fashion stardom and is now embarking on a new, and largely unprecedented, adventure: transitioning from male to female while working as an international supermodel in the public spotlight.

Pejic isn’t the first internationally successful, high-profile transgendered model. But she does seem to be the first to start a career identifying as one gender, and then transitioning to another in the public eye. She’s raising money now to fund a documentary about her transition, and about how the fashion establishment reacts. She spoke to TIME about the project, life as a transgendered Serbian refugee and how the industry has reacted to her transition so far.

TIME: Was a refugee camp a challenging place to grapple with gender identity issues as a child?

Andreja Pejic: I had to learn how to navigate and how to hide it from certain people. I was lucky in that I didn’t have an aggressive Balkan father, because my parents were divorced when I was very young and usually it’s the father in that region that says “You can’t do that” and “I don’t want my son playing with dolls.” So I could get away with it sometimes. I just learned in what situations it was OK and in what situations it wasn’t. When you’re really young people think you’re going to grow out of it. They’re almost like, let the kid have fun and he’ll grow out of it or she’ll grow out of it. Or, it’s just a passing phase. Obviously that didn’t happen.

When did you learn about what it meant to be trans, about the possibility of living publicly as a woman?

At the age of 13 with the help of Google. I would dream about being a girl. I would imagine it all the time, daydream about it a lot. But I didn’t know it was exactly possible. I would talk to my mom about it and she didn’t really know. She was like, “Oh you don’t want to be a woman. It’s so much harder for a woman. You can achieve so much more as a man.”

I didn’t know there were medical terms to describe my feelings, that there were doctors and a whole international community of people and resources and forums. When I learned that it was very eye-opening. I was able to define myself.

Did you ever think maybe making this transition to isn’t a good idea? You went from a refugee working at McDonald’s to an international supermodel. That’s a lot to risk.

It was more about timing. It’s not a desire that you can really get rid of. It’s not really a choice like, “Is it a good idea or not?” It’s not an aesthetic decision either. It’s a constant need. Unless you can fill that need it just grows stronger and you feel that you aren’t living a completely truthful life and the longer you live it like that the harder it gets. Could I have lived in my previous days for the rest of my life? I could have. But I wouldn’t have been nearly as happy and I didn’t want to keep wondering for the rest of my life what it would be like to live as a woman. And I just felt like life’s too short. We are in the 21st century and there are medical advancements. They’re available and why should I not take that opportunity? I definitely delayed my transition. I was originally going to do it after high school but the opportunity to go out into the world and earn some money was definitely great. Modeling became a great opportunity. So I put off the transition but it was always going to happen.

Who do you look to for inspiration?

On a personal level my mom is by biggest inspiration. She’s always been an idol for me. I used to dream about growing up and being like her. She really sacrificed her life for her kids and I really appreciate that. I definitely did look back into the past when I was a teenager for transgender icons, like a famous model called Tula in the 1970s-80s who starred as a Bond girl. She was a leading model when The News of the World outed her. She wrote two very great books. And past models like April Ashley, Bobby Darling. I think that it’s important to recognize the ones who came before.

The unique thing about your story is that you transitioned in the public eye. What has the reaction been so far?

I never thought I would do it this way. I always thought I would leave the life and do it as privately as possible. So when I decided to go public with it there was definitely a fear of rejection and I think it’s something that every person fears before they transition. It’s one thing to have family support and another thing to have the world accept you. I definitely didn’t know what was going to happen and I thought it was important to document it and that’s why we started a documentary. I thought it was important to tell my story.

I have to say the reaction has been pretty positive. I think there’s a level of respect that didn’t exist when I was growing up, definitely, toward these issues. Because I grew up with, you know, Jerry Springer, and that was the only representation of transgender people, and how horrible is that? I think we’re all doing this to tell a story that we hope will inspire other people, in the hope that they won’t have to hide and possibly educate parents and give hope to transgender youth and anyone that felt different.

Read TIME’s Cover Story on Transgender Activist Laverne Cox

TIME Newsmaker Interview

Wendy Davis on the Filibuster That Mattered to Her Most

Wendy Davis
Texas Democratic gubernatorial candidate Wendy Davis presents her new education policy during a stop at Palo Alto College in San Antonio on Aug. 26, 2014 Eric Gay—AP

It's not the one you think, the Texas gubernatorial candidate tells TIME

In June 2013, Wendy Davis made headlines across the country while standing on the floor of the senate chamber in the Texas legislature.

A member of that chamber’s embattled Democratic minority, Davis donned a pair of pink running sneakers under her otherwise business-as-usual attire and staged an 11-hour filibuster against a bill that included stiff restrictions on abortion across the state.

She ultimately lost that fight — the measure eventually passed and its constitutionality is now being fought over in the courts — but the episode became a viral sensation. Even those running shoes became Internet famous; “Guaranteed to outrun patriarchy” wrote one Amazon.com reviewer of the sneakers.

Davis was propelled to national prominence overnight, and she’s now making a long-shot bid for governor of Texas. But before her 2013 filibuster — which, she tells TIME, is not even the most important filibuster she’s staged — Davis was the daughter of a single mom and a single mom herself, experiences she has written about in her memoir Forgetting to Be Afraid, released this week.

She speaks to TIME about her struggle to get a college degree, her fight for reproductive rights and her favorite ice cream (it’s Rocky Road).

Your memoir is called Forgetting to Be Afraid. What inspired the title?
It was inspired by a Lady Bird Johnson quote. She was asked at least on one occasion by a group of young women how it is that she pushed through fear to do things, because she was inherently a very shy person. She advised them that you have to get so wrapped up in something you forget to be afraid. My whole life story can be captured through that idea. I had to make a way out of no way for myself and my daughter. Due to the fact that I was so wrapped up in trying to do that, I forgot to be afraid of doing it. Along every step of my journey I think that that sentiment really captures how it is that I’ve pushed through fear, put my head down and done what I needed to do.

Are you inherently shy yourself?
I was a very shy child. And I talk in the book about moving from being very shy to being a fighter, and that shift really came from the need to fight first for myself and my daughter and then next in the public-service arena for people who don’t have the same opportunities that I had in a myriad of ways.

In your book you write about your decision to terminate two pregnancies for medical reasons. Did that motivate your filibuster against the Texas abortion bill?
Honestly my personal experience in that regard was part of what I want people to know about me in hopes that it might help people struggling with the same situation. But my stand for reproductive rights in Texas was primarily motivated by my understanding of the harm that would come to women across our state if they were denied access to safe reproductive care. I have always firmly believed that women should be trusted to make decisions for themselves with their family, their faith, their doctor, and that the government has no business intruding in that most private arena. I fought that day for women, and men who love them, whose voices had been cut out of the process. In committee hearings at the state legislature, there were so many people that had signed up to speak and been told after several hours that their testimony was repetitive and they were cut off. I wanted to give voice to the people who felt like they’d not been heard.

But those restrictions were eventually passed. In fact, restrictions on abortion have been tightened across the state.
The first provision, which required that doctors have admitting privileges (to a hospital) within 30 miles of an abortion clinic was implemented right away. It immediately caused 21 of the 40 clinics in Texas to close. The second provision was set to go into effect on [Sept. 1], but a federal judge ruled the law in its entirety unconstitutional. As a consequence of that and while it’s on appeal at the Fifth Circuit I know that some of those health centers are considering reopening, some are waiting to see what the Fifth Circuit will do.

Was the filibuster your defining moment as a politician?
A lot of the people know about my filibuster last summer but as important if not more to me was my filibuster in 2011 to try to stop $5.5 billion from being cut from our public schools and try to stop a dramatic reduction in financial assistance for our students trying to go to a state university. Access to opportunity comes through education, and that is my primary passion and fight. And it’s why I’m running for governor.

You have daughters aged 32 and 25. Do you feel hopeful about their future?
What I see when I look at them is the fact that their mother broke through and got a college degree created a path for them to logically follow. I think about how fortunate they are that they have the ability to do that and I think about all of the other young girls in Texas who are those first-generation college students like me who don’t have the same path available to them. It’s that concern that motivates me most.

According to your book, your mom worked at the ice cream chain Braum’s. I love Braum’s! I grew up in Tulsa.
You did? Well, Texas is all about Whataburger. Oklahoma is all about Braum’s.

But your mom worked at Braum’s! Does this make you a traitor to Braum’s?
No, I still crave a Braum’s hamburger every now and then for sure.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

TIME Newsmaker Interview

Senator Kirsten Gillibrand Won’t Name Colleague Who Called Her ‘Porky’

Senators Discuss Legislation To Counter Sexual Assaults On Campus
Sen. Kristen Gillibrand (D-NY) participates in a news conference about new legislation aimed at curbing sexual assults on college and university campuses at the U.S. Capitol. Chip Somodevilla—Getty Images

Her book is a call for women to run for office, though she says she has no current designs on the nation’s highest office

She still considers herself the “loud mouth” and “fog horn” her father teasingly called her as a child, but Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand said Monday that she is not going to say which colleague called her “porky” after the birth of her second child, or which elderly senator told her not to slim down too much because he likes “my girls chubby.”

Those disclosures in her book, “Off the Sidelines,” which is due out Tuesday, made waves when they were printed in People Magazine last week. While taken aback by the clamor to disclose her critics’ names, Gillibrand says she knew that chapter—the one about her struggles with her weight—would be “the one every women’s magazine would excerpt,” she tells TIME. “I use these illustrations as an example of much larger point. It’s important to have a debate about how women are treated in the workplace. I’m not alone in having someone say something stupid. It’s less important who they are than what they said.”

The New York Democrat is using her book to promote her push to engage more women in politics. She holds her own life up as an example of finding a way to have it all: the big career, two young sons and loving marriage. “We need new and better policies that support women and allow all women to rise,” Gillibrand writes. “We need to end the cycle of women studying hard, starting careers, climbing through the ranks, taking time off to care for children, and never again finding a job as good as the one they left.”

Gillibrand is frank about the hardships: dispiriting credit or criticisms over her appearance, being unable even now to afford full time help and coming home from Congress to clean the bathroom when you have three men in the house (boys, apparently, don’t have great aim). But she also waxes poetic about the good she feels she has been able to accomplish: passing health care for the 9/11 first responders, tackling sexual assault in the military and on college campuses and repealing Don’t Ask Don’t Tell.

Gillibrand emphasizes that her flexible schedule in the Senate is what allows her to do it all. “These challenges that I face are common and not surprising, and I have it so much easier than working moms,” says Gillibrand, whose husband works in New York and lives up there for most of the week, leaving Gillibrand to care single-handedly for their two young sons in Washington. “I don’t have to be at work at a certain time.”

She writes about the importance of being unabashedly ambitious without the fear of seeming like, well, a bitch. “I was nicknamed Tracy Flick, the aggressive, comical, and somewhat unhinged blond high school student played by Reese Witherspoon in the movie Election,” Gillibrand writes. “It was a put down to me and other ambitious women, meant to keep us in our place. Yes, I’m competitive. I fight for what I believe in, and I drive hard toward my goals. Does that make me ruthless and crazed? No.”

Too many women, she argues, sit on the sidelines because they fear ambition. She says she timed the book to come out just before the midterm elections because she hopes to inspire more women to go out and vote, and to realize that political ambitions of their own are more achievable than they may think. But, when asked if she has further political ambitions in life, Gillibrand is clear about being happy where she is—and that her legislative plate is full with a reauthorization of the 9/11 First Responders bill and another pass at getting prosecution of cases of sexual assault in the military removed from the chain of command. Her bill fell six votes short of breaking a filibuster earlier this year.

She says she doesn’t want to run for governor and hasn’t the slightest intention of seeking the Democratic nomination for President in 2016 against presumed front-runner Hillary Clinton, her predecessor in the Senate and who wrote the glowing forward to Gillibrand’s book (“For Kirsten,” Clinton writes, “public service isn’t a job. It’s a calling.”).

But the book tour still means she gets asked questions about her future ambitions.

“Will you run for President?” I asked her on Monday.

“No,” she said.

“What if Hillary doesn’t run?”

“No.”

“Are you ruling it out?”

“Ask me in 10 years.”

“How about in 2020?”

“No.”

“2024?”

“No.”

“Which will come first, a third kid or running for President?”

“Oooh,” Gillibrand said, “That is such a hard question. I think they’re both off the table. Probably having a third—probably have a third would come first if I could convince my husband. I’d love having a third.”

TIME hackers

Founder of America’s Biggest Hacker Conference: ‘We Understand the Threat Now’

Black Hat founder Jeff Moss speaks during the Black Hat USA 2014 hacker conference at the Mandalay Bay Convention Center in Las Vegas
Hacker Jeff Moss also known as The Dark Tangent speaks during the Black Hat USA 2014 hacker conference at the Mandalay Bay Convention Center in Las Vegas, August 6, 2014. Steve Marcus—Reuters

The hacker who has presided for 22 years over what is today the biggest hacker conference in the United States talks to TIME about Edward Snowden, Dorian Gray and hackers' changing role in society.

For one weekend every year, thousands of the world’s best—or worst, depending on your point of view—hackers meet in Las Vegas, Nevada, for Defcon. It’s one of the biggest hacker conferences on Earth, with about 15,000 attendees this year. It’s an event that some feel pushes the boundaries of legality, as hackers teach one another skills from lock picking and password cracking to evading government surveillance. The weekend is a celebration of hackish whimsy, the right to privacy and radical freedom of expression.

The light-up electronic badge needed to get into the conference can only be purchased with cash, and organizers collect no information about attendees’ identity. The place is rumored to be teeming with cybercriminals and federal agents alike, plus hordes of hackers trying to crack each other’s systems. Using the Wi-Fi is highly discouraged by some, for good reason: One room is home to an electronic bulletin board called the “Wall of Sheep,” which lists the user ID and partial password of any hapless hacking victim at the conference.

While covering the 22nd annual Defcon, TIME caught up with the founder and patriarch of the conference, Jeff Moss — better known by his hacker handle, “The Dark Tangent,” more commonly rendered simply as “DT.” With his pink t-shirt, short curly black hair, thin-framed rectangular glasses and a bouquet of badges dangling from his neck, DT looked the part of a pasty chieftain presiding over an ancient rite in digital dystopia. He doesn’t give out his age (Wikipedia places it at 39, which seems close enough).

This interview has been edited for length.

TIME: You’re ageless.

DT: I know. But I’m afraid at one point it’ll all come crashing down. What’s the horror movie where when the painting on the wall burns and everybody ages?

Do you have a Dorian Gray painting somewhere?

That’s my concern.

This conference has a nefarious reputation. Is that fair?

Oh yeah. I think there’s a little bit of nefariousness. The nefariousness is really more of an irreverence. You’re judged on what you know and what you can do, so it’s really kind of a put up or shut up culture, and you’re judged on what’s in your head, not how you look or what kind of watch you own. Sometimes people don’t know how to deal with that.

Is the Wi-Fi here safe to use?

It’s funny. It used to be you wouldn’t use our secured network because nobody really trusted it, they’d use their phone. Now everybody’s hacking the phones and intercepting phone calls and SMS messages, and nobody trusts their phone thanks to Snowden and all, and they want to use our secured Wi-Fi.

The last Defcon happened just after National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden was first granted temporary asylum in Russia. Where does he fit into the zeitgeist of this community?

I think the cult of personality around Snowden has been replaced by concerns about what he revealed. Last year, there was sort of this sense of impending doom. It was like, “My God, what are you going to tell us next?” Now it’s like, “Ok, we understand the threat now. We understand what’s going on due to the revelations.”

Last year, it was just this sense that offense was so totally overwhelming, defense is helpless, what are we going to do, woe is me, the sky is falling. Now we’ve had a year, and you can see what the reaction has been: more energy than ever from the Electronic Frontier Foundation and the [American Civil Liberties Union]. Hackers like Josh Corman [an Internet security expert] trying to make a contribution to make things more secure. IETF [the Internet Engineering Task Force, which develops the protocols on which the Internet is based] has decided that pervasive Internet surveillance is a threat and needs to be taken into account for all future Internet protocols. You see Google and Microsoft investing money to create foundations to audit software. Everybody’s responding in their own way, so this year it feels much more hopeful. I think that’s a much more healthy response. We feel like we’re trying to take our own future into our hands.

Nothing changed before or after Snowden’s revelations. The security researchers knew that of course that’s what the NSA or any government can do. If you talked to the hackers last year it was like, “Of course you can do that. I’ve been doing that for 10 years.” But now that it’s sunken in at a more policy level you can have the conversation. Before you would say something to your parents and they’d be like, “Oh hahaha. You’re paranoid.” Next thing you know your parents are like, “Oh my God. You were not crazy. You’re not my paranoid son.” Now we’re at a place where people can relate and that’s a much more healthy place for us to be.

Do you have any demographic information on the people who attend this conference?

We don’t collect anything. Just the number of people. This is clearly a record. We plan for 5% growth or something and we exceeded that. Nobody saw the growth coming and there’s just this dot com feeling of people piling in more than ever.

I mean, this is the first Defcon TIME Magazine has attended.

Yeah! Do you know who else is here? C-SPAN!

…Really…

Yeah!

First time, huh?

First time. First it was just hackers talking to hackers, and then companies came in, and then it was other verticals, like telecoms. Now all of a sudden we’ve got medical, we’ve got policy, government. Just when we think we’ve gotten as many people who care about what we do here, all of a sudden a new greenfield [in engineering terms, a new creative frontier] room pops open and it’s airplanes, pacemakers and smart cars. That’s why I feel like there’s this energy. It’s like, “Oh my god, they’re listening to me! There’s a new avenue. I can do something new, try a new skill, develop my software.” It’s like greenfield again. Last year it sucked and this year it’s awesome.

TIME 2014 Election

Republican California Dreaming: Candidate For Governor Neel Kashkari Charts New Course for GOP

California Republican Gubernatorial Candidate Neel Kashkari Interview
California Republican gubernatorial candidate Neel Kashkari pauses during a Bloomberg West Television interview in San Francisco, California, U.S., on Friday, Feb. 28, 2014. Kashkari, former head of the U.S. Treasury's bank bailout program, discussed his decision to run for governor in California. Bloomberg—Bloomberg via Getty Images

TIME sat down with the candidate to talk about his stint as a homeless man and how the GOP is going to stop their decline in California

Neel Kashkari is not yet a name most Republicans would recognize, and he holds policy positions many Republicans abhor. But the former banker who spearheaded the 2009 bank bailout may also be the Republican Party’s best hope for salvaging its brand in the nation’s most populous state.

In June, Kashkari came in second in the California governor primary with 19% of the vote. That makes him the single man standing between Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown, who won 54%, and what is assumed to be Brown’s impending, unprecedented fourth term. Kashkari, however, says he refuses to let Brown coast to victory again. “He thinks he’s entitled to the governorship because his daddy was governor,” Kashkari told TIME, when asked about Brown. “It’s like a coronation. So, okay, this is a democracy. I’m gonna make him answer.”

A native Ohio son of two immigrant parents, Kashkari is not a typical Republican, which may prove to be his most threatening feature in the increasingly blue Golden State. He’s a fiscal conservative, and a former Goldman Sachs financier, who supports abortion rights and same-sex marriage. He voted for Barack Obama in 2008, but has also been endorsed by Mitt Romney, whom he strongly supported in 2012. The 41-year-old has never held an elected office, unless you count being elected to lead the finance club at Wharton Business School (which he, half-jokingly, says was a very stiff competition). With coffers dwarfed by Brown’s $22 million war chest, and $2 million of his own money already sunk into the race, Kashkari has been finding creative ways to win the spotlight.

In July, he spent a full week living homeless on the streets of Fresno, playing out an experiment wherein he tried his best to find work and failed, sleeping in parking garages and eating at homeless shelters. It was an attempt to point out that things could be better in California, and he made a video to prove it.

This week TIME sat down with the candidate. Here is a lightly edited transcript of that conversation.

The California GOP seems to be on the decline. There are fewer than ever registered Republican voters. A Republican hasn’t won a statewide office in eight years. The legislature is controlled by Democrats. Where did the party go wrong?

I can’t point to any one thing and say this is where they went wrong, or where we went wrong. I think it’s been a gradual decline. But that’s part of my mission. California is obviously a unique state, right? And probably the most diverse in the whole country. And I don’t think our party has done a good job reflecting that diversity, which is why I feel I have such a great opportunity to show the state, and show the country, that there’s a Republican party, a Republican candidate, that can reflect that diversity and reach out into the diverse communities and unite everyone.

So there’s embracing more diverse groups. Is that just one prong in a larger reinvention that needs to happen for the California GOP?

I don’t think it’s reinvention. One of the things that the Republican party has done a lousy job of nationally is explaining how our economic ideas help regular families. That’s part of why I did what I did a couple weeks ago in Fresno … We’re down to 28% registered Republicans. That data is right there. We’re not going to win another election if we just win the 28% of registered Republicans. So we have to grow our party. And what I’ve been doing for the last year and a half is reaching out into Latino communities, African-American communities, Asian communities and learning, What do you want? And you know what they want? A good education for their kids and good jobs.

Do Republicans at large need to be embracing the LGBT community more?

Absolutely. A few weeks ago, I marched in a gay pride parade, and the LGBT press said it was the first time a Republican gubernatorial candidate had done that. And my reaction was, Well, why wouldn’t I? They’re an important part of California, and I want to help them achieve their dreams. And you know what their dreams are? They want good jobs and they want good education for their kids, the same as everybody else. I’m working extra hard to reach out into every community, especially ones that have historically come to believe that Republicans don’t care about them.

Do you support same-sex marriage or believe, from a libertarian perspective, that it simply should not be banned by the government?

To me it’s the same thing. I support same-sex marriage. And I think the government shouldn’t be getting into any of our business. People should be free to live the lives that they want to lead, as long as they’re not hurting anybody else. I was asked about reparative therapy recently, which I think is absurd. The idea that you’re going to convert a gay person to a straight person. You’re as likely to convert me to being gay … People should be allowed to marry whomever they want.

There’s been a lot of controversy about the law banning reparative therapy in California. There’s also been controversy over a new law that allows K-12 transgender students to access sports teams and bathrooms that align with their gender identity. What’s your take on that?

My issue with that law is not the substance. My issue is the way it was done. There was never a discussion statewide. Parents were, frankly, not consulted. And all of a sudden this is passed, seemingly in the middle of the night. This is a real issue, and kids need to be protected from bullying … [But] we’re 46th out of 50 for education. This is the biggest issue that the governor and the legislature is focused on in education? We’ve got this Vergara case that just happened in June, finding that the civil rights of minority kids are being violated. To me, it’s a question of priorities. Let’s go fix our schools so that every kid—gay, straight, transgender—every kid gets a good education.

In the California GOP platform, unnecessary spending on social programs is derided. Are you prepared, when you’re addressing these issues of homelessness, poverty, lack of jobs, to spend money on social programs?

We’re spending a lot on social programs today. Those, in my view, are meant to be a bridge, a bridge to a job. But when you just push social programs, social programs, social programs, and there’s no destination at the end of the bridge—it’s a bridge to nowhere—you accomplish nothing. And that’s my big beef with both the policies that the Democrats and Jerry Brown have pursued and, frankly, President Obama has pursued nationally. Unemployment benefit extensions, more food stamps, more welfare. But to what? To what end?

Where does inequality rank in terms of California’s problems?

It’s an output. Income inequality and poverty are products of a failure in our policies, education policies and economic growth policies. If we get a lousy education, stuck in a failing school, we get left behind when the economy grows. And income inequality just expands. More people get left behind in failing schools. And that’s why this Vergara case is landmark. Because finally a judge has said education is a civil right, and we need to look at it through the lens of civil rights.

In a way these are issues that have been around since Proposition 187, and before. What are your thoughts about what happened then and how it relates to now?

To me, that’s old news. I always go into every community with the same message. I want your kids to get a good education. I want you to get a good job. And people say to me, Well, what about immigration? I say, Look, I’m the son of immigrants. I believe immigrants add tremendous value to our country. We’re a nation of immigrants, and we need to embrace immigration. But we also need to update our laws to provide the workers our economy needs. In Silicon Valley, they need engineers. Farmers need farm workers. Let’s prioritize those workers that we need. And then we need to enforce the law. There’s no point to having any laws that are utterly unenforced, whether it’s gun laws or immigration laws.

To drill down on one specific point, what kind of public services should undocumented immigrants have access to?

I don’t have a laundry list in my head of ‘These are what’s appropriate, and these are not.’ I don’t think that people are coming to this country or coming to this state in pursuit of such services. I think they’re coming here in pursuit of jobs. And the more we can grow the economy, the better off everyone is going to be.

It’s easy to draw a comparison with some former GOP candidates, like Meg Whitman, who came into the race with a fortune of their own. Is there a disconnect between talking about poverty so much and coming from a background that was relatively privileged?

Compare my background to Jerry Brown’s. My parents were immigrants. I grew up middle class, mowing lawns and bagging groceries. Jerry Brown grew up in the governor’s mansion. He’s worth way more money that I am. I said, Okay Governor, you want to talk about who’s rich? Let’s release your taxes. You want to do one year? I’ll do one. You want to do five, I’ll do five. You want to do 10, I’ll do 10. Do you know what he’s said since then? Nothing. So if I’m not allowed to talk about poverty, and he’s not talking about poverty by choice, who’s going to talk about it?

What do you think about the sort of anti-politician stance Brown’s been taking in recent months?

I think it’s the height of arrogance. He thinks he’s entitled to the governorship because his daddy was governor. It’s like a coronation. So, okay, this is a democracy. I’m gonna make him answer.

Have you interacted with Brown or met him?

No.

In other interviews, you’ve acknowledged that in some ways the state is better off since he took office. Unemployment is down, though still not ideal. Exports are up. The economy is growing. How bad are things in California now compared to when he took office?

Look at how bad things are now in an absolute sense. I went to Fresno for seven days looking for a job. I did not see a single ‘Help Wanted’ sign. But virtually all the fast food restaurants now accept food stamps. It’s in the windows. If you want to just hang out in the Bay Area, you’re right, things are great. But if we travel around the rest of the state and see where most of California lives, a lot of people are struggling.

Your stint of homelessness has gotten you a lot of national media attention. What was that like on the ground?

It was literally seven days, six nights, of walking miles and miles and miles each day, going into diners, hardware stores, auto dealerships, saying, ‘Hey, I just got into town. I’m looking for work. I’ll wash cars, wash dishes, pack boxes, anything.’ And the closest I got to a job was with one woman, who runs a Mexican restaurant, who said she was looking for a cook. And I said, ‘Great, I’ll be your cook.’ And she said I needed at least a year’s worth of cooking experience for Mexican food. I didn’t know what I’d find. I didn’t know if after two days or a day, maybe I’d get a job and then I’d spend four or five days living as a working poor. Or I didn’t know if after one or two days this might be so hard, I run out of money, I run out of food, that I have to pull the plug. But after three or four days, when I was running out of money, it was other homeless people who said, ‘Oh, you can go to this homeless shelter.’ So that’s what I ended up turning to for food.

What has Jerry Brown failed to do to address homelessness and poverty that you would do?

Here’s a Democratic governor with a Democratic super-majority in the state senate and the state assembly. And he’s making incremental changes. He’s tinkering around the edges. He should be Nixon going to China. He should be the guy saying, ‘You know what, as governor, I’m going to go fight for the civil rights of poor kids. And I don’t care if my union bosses are mad at me for it.’ That’s what a bold leader would do. Is he doing it? No. He doesn’t want to upset the apple cart. The thing that angers me the most is if anybody in California has the power to make big changes, it’s Jerry Brown. He’s not lifting a finger … In the face of record poverty, schools that are near the worst, and unemployment that’s near the worst, he does what’s politically expedient for him. That’s a hell of a record.

Now that you’re a few months out of the primary and 20 points or so behind Brown, and he has a huge war chest, what do you think your chances are of winning?

I was at 2% in March. And all the press said I was done. It was over. And we won the primary with 19% on June 4. And we’re now at 33%. So we’ve come a hell of a long way in just a few months. So Jerry doesn’t want to debate. We’re having the debate now without him. Jerry’s gonna hide under his desk. Let him keep hiding.

Have you heard back about debates?

We’ve received four or five different debate requests from media outlets around the state, and we’ve accepted all of them. And he’s hiding. Look, if my legacy were 24% poverty [a number that comes from an alternative analysis of U.S. Census Bureau data], I wouldn’t want to debate either. He thinks he can just cruise, not have to talk about poverty, not have to talk about education, not have to talk about jobs, and get away with it. Because it’s the coronation of Jerry.

In a lot of ways the bailout can be considered a success. A lot of people, of course, hated it, seeing it as the regular guys bailing out the rich guys. Looking back now, is there anything that you would have done differently with the bailout or that the government should have done differently?

We hated that we had to do it. We wanted to let all the banks fail. Because they deserved to fail. So for a year, they had been calling us, saying they’re in trouble. And we said, Flush the toilet. You made a lousy investment. You own it. Nobody owes you anything. But when we faced the Great Depression scenario, that’s when ultimately we said we didn’t have a choice. We’re gonna step in. There are lots of little things I wish we could do differently with the benefit of hindsight. But in the big picture, the collective actions that we took were the right things to do.

So you’ve obviously been getting creative with your tactics of late, crashing a Jerry Brown event and living on the streets of Fresno. What else do you have up your sleeve?

I can’t tell you. [Laughs.] The issues I’ve been talking about since the first day of this campaign are poverty, lack of jobs, failing schools, income inequality, canceling the high speed train because it’s a big waste of money, and investing in water instead. Those are the issues we’re going to keep talking about because those are the most important issues facing the state. We’re going to come up with every creative way we can. … And I’m going to make Jerry Brown answer for his silence.

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