Rob Zerban for Congress
WI-01: Wisconsin's 1st Congressional District in WI http://robzerban.com
5711 8th Ave.
Kenosha , WI
Primary Election Date: 2014-08-12 General Election Date: 2014-11-04
Who am I?
I learned early on how to make the most of my life, and how government can be a partner in creating the American Dream. I was raised in a single-parent household where my mother worked hard to keep a roof over my and my siblings' heads. With the help of Pell Grants and Stafford Loans, I was lucky enough to attend the school of my dreams: the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York, where I trained as a chef and studied restaurant business management.
After my education I went on to create two small businesses. I employed 45 people and made sure to pay them a living wage, provide excellent benefits, and ensure them best healthcare. I understand that taking care of my employees and never taking their hard word for granted was what made my company thrive.
After selling my last business in 2008, I dedicated my life to public service. I went door-to door with the Wisconsin League of Conservation Voters to educate people on preserving the Great Lakes. I served on the league's Board of Directors to become a part of the grassroots movement to protect our rich and beautiful land. Our efforts culminated in the passage of the Great Lakes Compact in December of 2008. I also served as an elected official in Kenosha County as a Board Supervisor, helping build a healthier, more vibrant, and more prosperous community.
I am a job creator, an innovator, and a pragmatist. I was able to succeed because government was there for me when I needed it. And now I am committed to protecting and building programs that invest in our citizens, communities, and environment so that future generations can live the American Dream too.
Why am I running?
I am running because I am living proof that what the Right says about human nature and the effectiveness of Progressive legislation is dead wrong. I am where I am today because the government helped me when I needed it. It helped feed me as a child, educate me as a young adult, and helped finance my first business with small business loans. And I am not a parasite. I am a member of a society, and the opportunities afforded to me via the state I plan to pay back ten-fold.
My opponent for the House of Representatives, Paul Ryan, has made his living by opposing this view the American people and its government. But this is not simply an issue of ideological dispute; my opponent’s views have had real-world consequences for the people of my home, Wisconsin, and my country. We have been robbed of jobs by the never-ending circus of Republican obstruction and governance-by-crisis, which Mr. Ryan has been integral in planning. His authoring of unprecedentedly austere budgets has stifled meaningful budget negotiations, making it more difficult for our communities to receive much needed investments in infrastructure and education. I am running to end this madness, and to return Wisconsin to its Progressive tradition.
In Congress I will work towards an agenda that invests in our future by creating jobs building infrastructure and green technologies, and that does not gut the programs that middle and working class families need to get by. I will take on the special interests to get money out of politics, and work towards a constitutional amendment that says corporations are not people and money is not speech. And I will fight for a Medicare for All-type healthcare system.
These are ambitious goals, but we can achieve them by mobilizing Progressive grassroots movements to put outside pressure on Washington, while we, as legislators, offer up pieces of legislation to fire up activists and keep them engaged. The status quo will not change until there is a groundswell of activism from the American people, but we as legislators have the responsibility to guide that enthusiasm, and to coalesce that pressure into meaningful legislation.
As a Kenosha County Board Supervisor I was able to deliver a balanced budget every year; ones that did not sacrifice community investment in the name of austerity. As a former small business owner I understand that you have to invest in order to grow. No country or business has ever cut its way to prosperity. This is something that my opponent, Paul Ryan, does not seem to understand. Fueled by his extreme right-wing ideology, and with no experience building a business, he, as so many conservative ideologues, believe that abstract theories are a substitute for real world experience and effective budgeting.
As a business owner I put my employees before my profits, understanding that they were the backbone of success. In order to attract the best talent and foster the greatest productivity, people have to be able to provide for themselves and their families, and feel as if their work actually makes their lives better. My background in business has taught me the sound economics and common sense to get this country back to work.
Change will not be easy, but as leaders we must give Americans the framework to begin plotting a progressive path for our party and our country. The Conservative Movement spent decades organizing, discussing, and voting in order to fundamentally change the face of American politics and the Republican party. We cannot shy away from a similar fight in order to reverse the economic, social, and political damage they have wrought.
My DFA Values
We must begin to shape the national debate around the Progressive values that we hold dear. As a candidate I will focus my campaign on the idea that community, security, and liberty are inextricably linked to one another, and must be placed front and center in any discussion of policy or politics.
My campaign is an attempt to reclaim these values from the right-wing politicians who have coopted the language of community, security, and liberty in recent decades. My opponent, Paul Ryan, has long been a leading Republican mouthpiece of a far-right ideology that claims these values as their own. By making reference to these values as distinct from one another they are able to obscure many of the inherent contradictions in their positions. It allows them to fret over of the wellbeing of families in a community in the same sentence that they advocate for infringing on the liberty of same-sex couples. It allows them to spend vast sums of money on security, robbing communities of the support and investment they need to thrive.
I believe that America is, and always has been, a Progressive country, one that embraces the importance and interdependence of community, security, and liberty. I want to stand up to the rhetoric coming from the Right, and show that these values are integral to one another. I want to show that real security is impossible without strong communities and healthy communities are hollow without liberty. My values compel me to fight for the financial and physical security of citizens through investments in infrastructure, police, firemen, and, of course, teachers, who are the most important individuals (outside of ourselves) to the security of our children. I want to ensure that communities are given the support and individuals allowed the liberty to live and thrive in a way that is consistent with the American Dream.
I decided to run for congress because of the groundswell of support that I felt from my community. Many of my friends and neighbors feel insecure about the future, and that their values are not shared by their leaders. They want to remind Washington that cuts to Social Security and Medicare do not open stores on Main Street. Demonizing welfare recipients does not create a tight-knit community. Bullets do not buy security. And denying rights to fellow citizens is no expression of liberty. Thriving communities, real security, and embracing a full understanding of liberty are the foundation the Progressive American Dream.
My Campaign is People Powered!
Grassroots enthusiasm is the reason I chose to run for Congress. My involvement with the Wisconsin League of Conservation Voters prior to my first run for congress was integral to my candidacy. Serving on their Board of Directors solidified my commitment to environmentalism, and environmentalists are now amongst my most ardent supporters. Helping to pass the Great Lakes Compact demonstrated to me the ability of grassroots organizations to educate and motivate citizens to affect legislation.
My campaign derives much of its energy from young Progressive volunteers and activists. These kids have organized themselves into on-campus College Democrats groups that hold regular meetings and educational events for students, and conduct outreach to potential voters at UW-Parkside and Carthage University. Many of them are also Special Registration Deputies (SRD’s), a necessary answer to Governor Scott Walker’s restrictive voting laws. We have a continuing intern program that gives college-age individuals (and even some high schoolers!) a taste of what campaign work is like and the importance of political organizing. Knowing what these kids can do gives me great hope for the future of the Progressive Movement, as we clearly outmatch our ideological opponents in terms of our future talent. But it is important that we, as leaders, give them an outlet for their beliefs and teach them how to put them into action. Their energy helps build our campaigns and staff our events, while constantly attracting more people to our cause.
Aside from reaching out to Progressive groups in Wisconsin directly, I plan to reach out to them by running an unabashedly Progressive campaign. I will not shy away from the subjects that have traditionally given Progressives pause, and I will confront the rhetoric used by the Right that seeks to obfuscate the discussion and quell dissension. I plan to shrug off the tired and expected cries of “Liberal!” and “Socialist!”, and put forth plainly the ideas that I advocate: Medicare For All; marriage equality; expansionary fiscal policy; and the deep belief that corporations are not people and money is not speech.