This is the first in a series of posts that will highlight our elected officials and candidates, focusing on what it takes to run for office. Hopefully, their stories will help inspire YOU to make a difference and help turn South Carolina Blue!
My name is Mal Hyman. I am a civil rights advocate, environmental activist, and a professor at Coker College. I am running to unseat hardline tea party Republican Tom Rice in South Carolina’s 7th District. I live in a historically red district, but I am an unabashed progressive. The only way we can beat the GOP is to offer people solutions that materially improve their lives, instead of empty platitudes.
Did you have a single tipping point that led to your decision to run?
As a professor of Sociology and political science, I have identified various issues plaguing our system. But four years ago, I figured I needed to be reaching a broader audience than in the classroom. The country and the world was in crisis and for me, the silence was a betrayal.
The Republican congressional stance on climate change is a crime against humanity. They are threatening the planet and our national security and the security of generations to come. That is why it is more important than ever for all of us to fight harder than ever.
Were you well-versed in the process of running for office – especially such a high profile one like US Congress?
I had been involved in campaigns since I canvassed for Robert Kennedy in 1968. I ran a congressional campaign in 1984 for Mel Gurtov. Mel Gurtov was a professor at the University of California. He was also part of the Pentagon Papers
With all of these political campaigns, there is much to master in terms of policy and strategy.
I also ran the GOTV for President Obama in 2008 and 2012. I have lots of grass roots experience.
Why did you decide to go straight for a US Congressional seat? Why did you not pursue State Senate or House of Reps first?
I like the current state Senator and I was involved to getting him to run 15 years ago. He was the first ever African American state senator from our district. I have campaigned for him and I have written speeches for him. He is working closely with me.
Also, my graduate studies were in international relations. I feel I have something to offer because I have worked in 8 countries and monitored foreign elections.
Now that you’re several months into your campaign, what advice would you offer someone who is considering running for an elected position for the first time?
Running for office is a fight that can be cleansing or corrosive. Choose to cleanse and you will grow faster than you can imagine and you will be of service to more people than you can imagine by widening the dialogue on important issiues.
These are experiments in Democracy. In all experiments, you have to be willing to fail to learn how to make things more plain and more useful.
This process at many points is more listening than talking. Give yourself time for reflection and prayer to process it.
It is important to reach out early. Remember, this is a team effort and you need to develop a strong team. The public is listening more closely at anytime since the 1960s.
How will you reach new and unlikely voters who must turn out to overcome a red district vote deficit?
We are using every possible method of outreach: We are canvassing, meeting with students, rotary clubs and civic groups like the NAACP, environmental groups and Our Revolution. We are also doing grassroots outreach at concerts, football games and out on the streets. We are including Social media outreach, facebook, twitter, Instagram, and Reddit. We are finding that the public is ready for change, frustrated with major parties. It seems to be an election cycle where there is a wave of support for bold new ideas.
As somebody who has taught at every level for 40 years, I am able to position myself as an outsider. I won’t take any corporate money so that I can remain free and independent of the public interest.
I am also highlighting issues that matter to people. For example, I am doing series of panel discussions on drug abuse and opioid addiction throughout the district.
I am also reaching out to college students by doing panel discussions at my university on human rights, medical cannabis and sustainable energy this year.