When you ran for Congress two years ago, you said you would have voted against the Obama administration’s 2015 nuclear deal with Iran had you been serving in office. Your quote at the time was: “Sen. [Ben] Cardin got it right—we should absolutely have opposed the agreement. We didn’t push a rogue government, a despicable government to make a good enough deal.” Given that Mr. Trump said he was withdrawing from the deal in order to push for a better agreement, do you feel he did the right thing?
No. I stick by my position before. It was a lousy deal, but once the deal was made, we needed to stick with it and make it better. We should not have broken the deal, which President Trump did. We should have built upon it, and made it more and more enforceable.
Iran is a tremendous danger, and the Middle East is obviously a powder keg, as we’ve seen with the [Jamal] Khashoggi situation in Saudi Arabia and Turkey. I think Cardin had it right in saying that Israel is our No. 1 ally in the Middle East, a progressive democracy … that Republicans and Democrats together should always be supporting.
You recently underwent chemotherapy for a cancerous tumor in your urinary tract and surgery for removal of one of your kidneys. While your doctors have now declared you to be cancer-free, should voters in the 6th District have any pause about your having the energy and stamina to assume an elected office that is frequently a seven-day a week, arduous job?
No. My success is certainly due to the willingness to go the extra mile, work seven days a week, put in the time. As an entrepreneur, no one is successful unless you’re willing to do that—and entrepreneurship is what I’ve done … . We’re running flat out, seven days a week.
On the bout with cancer, the outpouring of support [from] hundreds and hundreds of people has just been phenomenal, and very humbling. But I’ll tell you, it really speaks to the importance of the [National Institutes of Health]—and I use that as a proxy for medical research. In the  campaign, I talked about doubling the number of dollars for NIH. The NIH budget this year is $37 billion; in 2003, if you put it in today’s dollars, it would have been $43 billion. So in 15 years, the NIH budget, inflation adjusted, has decreased by 11 percent.
I’ve been down to NIH, and we know what they can do. All across the world, medical research is being stymied, and not being given the opportunities. And, after having this bout with cancer, we can see even more than before the importance of investing in our children’s future [in terms of] health care.
There was some controversy this summer, even within your own party, about the delay in disclosing your condition to voters after it was diagnosed. Your opponent, when recently asked about this, cited the speed with which Gov. Hogan disclosed his diagnosis of lymphoma three years ago. In hindsight, any second thoughts about the manner in which public disclosure of your situation to voters was handled?
None whatsoever. We wanted to have something to tell the public, we wanted to have definitive answers—where we stood [and] what the next steps were. We also wanted to get the doctors at Johns Hopkins [Hospital in Baltimore] to have statements. And we wanted to make sure we talked to friends and family about the situation—and respectfully, so before somebody read something in the newspaper.
We were in the process of doing that, and we had already put together statements. We rolled it out a little bit sooner than we wanted. It’s unfortunate that my opponent wants to politicize my health. I wish Gov. Hogan the absolute best. He’s reached out; he’s had some very thoughtful comments, very kind words and I really appreciate his support in this fight against the situation.
You’ve spent much of your career as president and chief executive officer of a sizable enterprise. Some executives—be they former governors or private sector bosses such as yourself—have found operating in a collaborative body like the House of Representatives, with 435 members, can be very frustrating. Do you anticipate problems transitioning from CEO to legislator if you’re elected?
What folks don’t understand is that, if you’re a business person and build a company from zero to over $3 billion, I’ve got 7,000 team members around the country. You only are successful if you are collaborative. In business, we work with a team, we work with our suppliers—we have to work with others. That is a trait that all CEOs possess. It makes it 100 percent a great training ground for working in Congress.
A big advantage I’ve got is that I have stores in 119 congressional districts. So if I’m talking to congressmen or congresswomen in Boston or Seattle or San Francisco or Miami, they often shop our stores, they know our business. And I’ve got team members in jobs in their districts, philanthropy in their district—and I’m going to be able to get their ear to talk about things that unite us, both Republicans and Democrats.