Mikel Weisser for US Congress
AZ-04 in AZ http://www.mikelweisser.org/
4490 sundown drive
golden valley, AZ
Primary Election Date: 2014-08-26 General Election Date: 2014-11-04
Who am I?
My name is Mikel Weisser, a native Texan, lifelong Democrat and one of the leading voices fighting for change in our state. My campaign slogan is “Tell the Right They’re Wrong!” I've been fighting the right for the past 25 yrs myself and know now is the time for we as a people and Democrats as a party to act.
I know about action. I first took action for a cause when I was 10 yrs old and stood up to my racist dad over having black kids at my birthday party. I first joined an organized cause when I walked into a farm workers strike at 19. Currently I’m vice chair of the state party’s progressive caucus, a charter member of our state’s statewide DFA chapter, state party regional coordinator for the legislative races in my congressional district, legislative liaison and executive director of Safer AZ, our state cannabis reform PAC, in addition to serving as secretary of my county party and still being one of the state’s more popular poets and leading rural arts organizers. My youth poetry projects ran more than 5yrs, our community book festival, which I host, is now in its 10th year and the musical open mic I created for my local Democratic party just celebrated its first year anniversary.
Juggling these roles and a few dozen more, I travel thousands of miles every month, developing the grassroots Democratic organization we must have if rural AZ is ever going to join the 21st century. A former teen runaway and plumber, I didn’t go to college until I was 30 and didn’t know how to type till I was 27. I put myself through college working first as a carnie and later as homeless shelter administrator. Along the way, I’ve collected two Masters Degrees, published hundreds of newspaper and magazine articles (mostly political humor), self published several collections of poetry, and taught thousands of kids US History and Government.
And that’s how I knew I had to take on the larger role of reformer, of candidate. Each year we would start and end the school year w the INS citizenship test and watch “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington.” After a dozen years of that formula, and assisting in my wife's 2010 state senate campaign, I stepped up to lead my local Occupy movement and when AZ announced the new congressional districts in 2012, someone asked me to take on the race. In the end, while teaching full-time, I lost the primary by 19 votes and committed to my supporters to not give up. I would stay active and build for 3 cycles, commit to a long-range grassroots strategy to rebuild the culture and plant the desert blue.
I left teaching one year ago to campaign full-time, continue creating poetry and music shows in communities that have no active culture, train rural candidates and parties, learn the people and the problems we can fix. Inspire myself by inspiring others and hopefully change the world.
Why am I running?
There are a thousand threads come together to make a moment like this; but, without any doubt, my wife, Beth Weisser’s, 2010 state senate campaign was the most important inspiration when I decided to launch my original 2012 campaign. In summer of 2010 I was off doing my annual touring poet adventure and came home to find Beth’s campaign in full swing. At that point I had been an activist for more than 20 yrs and a Democratic volunteer for half a dozen. But her courage to stand up for what she believed in, to face a public that was majority opposition, to teach herself a whole new field of expertise and network of individuals and organizations, her ingenuity, practical creativity and drive were the inspiration that showed me how important it was to have an Arizonan populist progressive movement rise right now. I was even more profoundly struck by the fact the skills I’d gained as an educator, activist, organizer and entertainer were the same skills it takes to be the kind of leader who could help create that kind of movement.
I have a line in my most famous poem, “Vocal Javelins,” that reads, “If we all wait for someone else to do it then we’ll never get it done.” America is ready to reject the disastrous “conservative values agenda” that’s been devastating our country for the past 40 yrs. Their appalling record of abuse and mean-spiritedness over the most recent 20yrs and the threats their policies and behaviors currently pose are an inspiration all by itself—it’s called outrage. Despite the GOP’s relentless propaganda campaign, American citizens are growing more progressive: in lifestyles, in priorities, in agendas for the future. Elsewhere citizens and Democrats are beginning to rise; but here in the west, in the rural “Real America,“ we keep waiting for someone more polished and trained, someone with more money and connections to take the reins and nothing happens. I decided to fight because the perils of not fighting for an America I believe in were far scarier than the thought of “losing.” We’re taught to believe that the winning matters more than the fight and it paralyzes us. The very immensity of the challenge of running for Congress in an R+15 district, and the fact no else had the courage to try it, became an inspiration in itself.
Then in 2014, after 6 months of traveling the district full-time to build the party, I was profoundly inspired by Malcolm Gladwell’s 2013 book, David & Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits & the Art of Battling Giants. I had spent my adult life battling the giants of my time on street corners, in classrooms and on op-ed pages, standing up for the little guy, taking on the bullies; but I had not realized the power of being the underdog or the importance of fighting for the oppressed, or how my life had built me for this fight … until that moment. Since then the path is clear: Ever up.
My top 3 goals are improved education, improved immigration and reform of existing marijuana laws. While I have many ideas of things I would passionately like to advance (including desalinization projects, rural solar electrification, community arts support, prisoner rights, a Constitutional amendment to end corporate personhood, and so on), these 3 are the areas I have the most experience in and have already been making progress on. In education, as a former lead teacher w a Master in Secondary Ed Instruction, I am profoundly aware of the mess politics has made of our educational system in the last 20 yrs. Class sizes are exploding, course variety and richness has been sacrificed for test driven monotony, amenities are sacrificed, student culture is decidedly anti-educational and declining faster than ever before.
I propose scrapping test driven education and returning to creating whole humans, strong citizens. We can start by at last fully funding federal mandates that cripple school district budgets. Restore electives and vocational ed classes, provide increased nutritional and counseling assistance and stop trying to run education as a for-profit industry. Education is for the good of the public. America is on a crash course w chaos if we don’t turn the future of education around.
America is a land of immigrants and in the wake of 20th century disastrous military, environmental and business practices, the 21st century world is awash in refugees. The upswing in international refugees is global condition that is just beginning to trend. America is going to have to have a sensible policy for dealing w refugees. We need modern sensible border checkpoints to be able to process refugees the way Ellis Island once did and the professional class who currently are allowed to immigrate also need increased efficiency. Our history of exploiting undocumented immigrants and workers in general is a continuing record of unspoken slavery. Lincoln was right, a country cannot exist half slave and half free. Our 14 Amendment guarantees the rights of “any person,” citizen or no, to equal protection and due process. Immigrants create jobs as consumers, and workers take on the unpleasant work many laborers avoid. I call for a new vision on immigration: if you want to stop illegal immigration, make immigration legal.
Lastly on the issue of cannabis reform, as executive director of my state’s cannabis reform PAC, I am already working day and night to end the horrific cannabis prohibition that has created so much social havoc over the past 80 yrs. The laws were the hatemongering product of crony capitalism at its worst, the preponderance of evidence of the therapeutic use of cannabis is irrefutable and thoroughly researched no matter what the Right will tell you. The social misery caused at home and abroad over America’s War on Drugs is incalculable. It’s time to bring 10s of millions of Americans out of the shadows, embrace “Green Rush” innovation and revenue it promises and halt the momentum of America’s prison-industrial complex, before our government becomes everyone’s jailers.
My DFA Values
As an artist, activist and educator, my entire adult life has been about community. Well, the past 25 years of it, anyway. Just before turning 30, after years of dead-end jobs as a construction worker, I joined a food co-op, King Harvest Food Co-op in Springfield, IL and my life was profoundly changed. I had felt a kinship w the activists I had seen on TV, but, having grown up in a rural conservative community, I had not personally met many. As a member of a food co-op, a retail whole foods/health food/new age fashion/activist meeting space, I was exposed to a host of great ideas and exciting lifestyles. Before long I became so involved in the co-op that, during a time when it fell into crisis, I stepped up and took the helm as the co-op store manager. For two years, every member was my boss and each month the will of the board of directors shaped the direction of the storefront and the organization’s activism. This job was the most completely community focused career one could imagine. Our idealism shaped our purpose, we purchased the things we value and took actions on the causes we supported. After two years in this heady milieu, at 30, I left the manager position to return to college to learn how to accomplish even more for the greater good. Later I worked as the volunteer coordinator for a homeless shelter that provided overnight services to 30 people a night and was in part staffed by a cadre of 100+ volunteers. Again the focus was on the community both as a resource and as a need. Then for the past dozen years in Arizona I have again built my life around serving a community’s needs as a teacher and as an arts organizer, I have spent my life imagining what advances the greater good and then focusing on the ground-level nuts and bolts mechanics of turning ideas into action. I wanted to preface my remarks in that context.
The famed anecdote of Franklin aside, security and liberty are not mutually exclusive. They are both among the promised goals of our American government, insuring domestic tranquility and providing for the common defense are the explicit definitions of national defense and social services. Securing our liberty for now and for the ages is only possible in a world that promotes the general welfare and ensures domestic tranquility. For all people. The truth we see of our current crisis of income inequality is that stripping the masses of their wealth to further enrich the plutocrats does not advance either our security or liberty. Turning our nation into a failed state for off-shored corporate profit does not make America safer.
But calling out the robber barons and rallying the opposition will, just as Americans once rebuffed England’s economically based oppressions. We will all be more secure when we start advancing the good of the public over the profits of predators.
My Campaign is People Powered!
When I filled out this application in 2012 I got to present a couple of rather profound examples of the grassroots enthusiasm we’d built in that cycle. I’m not sure I can top the disabled guy hitchhiking 35 miles to joining a campaign trip, but one clear way to show the magnitude that our campaign has now reached when it comes to grassroots organizing is to look at my campaign website’s year end blog for 2013. The acknowledgments section includes over 300 names all over the state and the nation. Even my fundraising shows the grassroots nature of my campaign. Though I have admittedly raised under $10,000 last quarter, I have dozens of small dollar donors.
But my favorite example of the grassroots impact I have had in Arizona politics happened just last week. While in Phoenix on other business, I decided to drop in on the monthly DFA meeting. A different congressional candidate was the feature and yet another was already on hand when I arrived. But still when I entered someone called my name and a sustained applause and cheer went up. I have never felt so validated.
Understand, I live 200 miles from PHX and, since moving to AZ in 200, I have always been the little country mouse trying to keep in touch w the politics of the big city, the folks in the know. I have felt like the ambassador from the rural venturing to the city to bring back ideas and resources. I had felt like the small guy at the table trying to watch how the big boys do it. But that applause and cheering showed me that my work on the state level inspires the people who inspire me as well. I want my campaign to be the nexus where rural and urban interests meet for our state. I travel 3-5 days out of every week connecting the local activists to each other and to the state wide Democratic party as well PDA and DFA. Last quarter alone I drove well over ten thousand miles, with only one out of state trip. In May, my district wide final canvass of the petition gathering season lasted 8 days, covered 1224 miles and collected signatures in 22 cities for myself as well as 7 statewide candidates, 8 legislative district candidates and 13 PCs in seven different counties. And we are continuing to work w these candidates and local parties to make the whole movement bigger. AZ can turn blue if we join forces to fix it. Every day we are expanding the circle of activists that attract to our efforts and join our cause by advancing their own personal campaigns for change. That’s about as grassroots as you can get.