I was born in Queens, New York in 1952, into a working-class family. My father was a World War II veteran, employed as an inspector for the New York State Department of Motor Vehicles. My mother was a homemaker. I have an older brother and a younger sister. When I was eight, my dad died of cancer. He was only 50 years old. For the next several years, we didn’t starve and we didn’t lose a home, because we had just enough to get by from his veteran’s benefits and the monthly check from the Social Security administration. Looking back, I would have to acknowledge that during those early tough times, it wasn’t just my mom who held us together. We were also supported by the federal government’s safety net. It helped my mom carry the load – as it was intended to do – and as it still does today for many struggling American families.
Now, despite a certain amount of hardship, and the normal childhood ailments – measles, chickenpox, a broken bone or two – I won’t say that my childhood was particularly sad or difficult. On the contrary, I remember being a mostly happy and healthy boy, all in all. I grew up in a safe, suburban neighborhood with easy access to one the world’s great cities; I was the beneficiary of a fine public education; I played in well-maintained public parks and playgrounds; I possessed strong family and community ties; and I lived in an America that produced, at that time, the healthiest, wealthiest, and wisest middle class in the history of the world.
Moreover, as a teenager and twenty-something, I had what seems, in retrospect, an inordinate amount of freedom – freedom of many kinds. I was free to read and study without incurring an onerous amount of student debt; free to come and go on abundant public transportation; free to pursue my chosen profession; and free to practice my chosen art. When the Vietnam War detonated, I was free to join with millions of other dissenting Americans in petitioning my government for a redress of grievances.
Of course, the 1960s was an incredible time to be young and idealistic. In my day, social media meant meeting in the streets to march against the war, or against poverty, racism, the suppression of women or gays, or nuclear proliferation. Many in my generation were certain, at least for a time, that we could actually change the world, if only we could apply enough reason, exhibit enough passion, and invest enough toil.
By the way, the ‘60s and ‘70s were also the days of cheap gas and inexpensive transport. I managed to crisscross this great and beautiful country many times on a shoestring – once in a car I bought for $250. My travel bug was further nurtured by the many gigs I secured as a street performer, children’s’ theatre actor, and variety entertainer. By my mid-thirties, I had already performed extensively throughout the U.S. and Canada, and also toured in Europe and Australia. For twenty years, I made my living as an actor, writer, director, producer, and entertainer. I did films, TV commercials, industrials, trade shows, conventions, children’s parties, the legitimate stage, and, of course, the streets. I was even a department store Santa Claus for many holiday seasons; that was a great gig.
My passion for a more sedate form of politics began in the early 1980s, in Boston. I got hooked for good in 1984, when I volunteered to work on the first successful write-in campaign in the history of the Massachusetts State Senate. I became an active Democrat, worked as a precinct captain and ward leader, and participated in several more campaigns, including Mike Dukakis’s 1988 presidential bid. I knocked on thousands of doors and began what became decades of walking “turfs” in order to speak to voters about issues and candidates I supported. In 1990, I was elected as a delegate to my first state party convention.
In 1992, my wife Cindy and I moved from the Boston area to Orlando. I worked as a performer at Walt Disney World, and Cindy taught music part-time. We bought our first house – a fixer-upper in College Park – just in time, as our daughters, Zoey and Emma, arrived in quick succession. Within a few years, my political instincts re-surfaced and I charged back into the fray. In 1996, and again in 1998, I became a candidate myself, running for the U.S. Congress against Republican incumbent Bill McCollum for Florida’s 8thdistrict seat. I Iost both races, but managed to get at least one-third of the vote each time on a minimal budget.
For several years thereafter, I worked on and off as a paid political operative for campaigns of others, while also making my living as a teacher, non-profit arts administrator, and writer. I’ve also been a salesman and a marketing consultant. I even worked for the census bureau in 2010. I’ve managed to survive several bouts of unemployment over the years. Thank goodness for unemployment compensation which helped fill the gap while looking for work. Today, Cindy and I live in Maitland. She’s a full-time teacher with the Orange County Public School system and both our girls grown and gone, following their own chosen paths.
In 2014, I decided to seek elective office once again, and ran against Republican incumbent, John Mica in Florida’s 7th CD. Again, I lost, but never regretted the opportunity to present my ideas and agenda to the voting public. I knew, however, at that time, that my political career was finally over. It was time to enjoy the pleasures of retirement. But then fate stepped in when our congressperson, Stephanie Murphy, decided to forgo a fourth term and the seat became open.
I thought long and hard about vying, once more, for political office, but when I read the campaign websites of several of the Republicans who had tossed their hats into the ring, I knew that I couldn’t sit by and allow those whose views were so inimical to all I believed in run without opposition. So, here I am, once again, putting my platform and my person before the voters of the 7th CD.
I believe that the people of my district deserve a Representative in the U.S. Congress who will fight for the general welfare while seeking the most compassionate and efficient solutions to our common problems; solutions that will bring the greatest good to the greatest number of people in this and future generations.
By the way, I still believe we can change the world. All we need do is apply enough reason, exhibit enough passion, and invest enough toil. Now’s the time!