Low Income Americans Run for Office

By Erin Lale

Despite a popular perception that politics is for the 1% of the population with the greatest wealth, there are people running to represent the poor, the middle class, and the formerly middle class. I am one of them, but I am not alone.

Local College of Southern Nevada professor Ed Klapproth, for example, is running for Clark County School Board. School Board is a nonpartisan contest, but he previously ran in a partisan race on the Libertarian ticket. As a college teacher, he is not among the rich, and has not yet raised any campaign funds. He has a campaign video online in which he advocates for allowing people who have subject matter Master’s degrees to teach in high school. People with subject matter Master’s are currently considered qualified to be college professors but not high school teachers in Clark County. Klapproth sees the primary problem with recruiting quality high school teachers to be the local restriction that only allows those with degrees in Education to teach. Prof. Klapproth has a Master’s degree in Teaching English as a Second Language and has taught high school English overseas but cannot teach ESL in a local high school. The same is true of Master’s degrees in math and the sciences: people who possess them are not considered qualified to teach those subjects by the Clark County school system. Our local school system turns away prospective math teachers with degrees in math in favor of those with degrees in Education who may not have actually taken any math courses in college. Many highly experienced teachers with subject matter Master’s could potentially relocate from California, bringing their decades of high school teaching experience with them, if local schools allowed it.

Klapproth is not the first person who is not rich to run for Clark County School Board. Neven Gibbs previously ran for Clark County School Board. A performer, Gibbs used to play Las Vegas nightclubs, but now performs in retirement homes and community centers. Gibbs says, “My platform won. Pity the voters didn’t include me with it.” Gibbs says that his opponent adopted his platform.

I asked Gibbs about his platform and whether he had trouble raising funds because he was not rich. Gibbs says, “I didn’t spend a cent, glad handed people at gas stations
and store parking lots, asked people their opinions in line at the
cash register and built my platform from ordinary working class
people. I called the talk shows and was generally ignored or poorly
portrayed by the RJ and Sun. Crime? Education or Trades. How? Use
available resources like Unions, Casinos for internship and job
training. This would have provided a job right out of high school and
reduced crime. Religion? I pointed out that the place for religion
was in the home, church, synagogue, Temple (both Buddhist and Mormon)
and mosque, all of which are available in Las Vegas. I took what
people said were their concerns and problems instead of toeing the
line of social groups. Developed answers and created the solutions
from solid experience and skill. My favorite experience was when one
of my opponents accused me of lacking leadership skills. Funny. He
and many other parents along with Congress trusted me to lead
soldiers.”

Low income people running for office is not just a Nevada phenomenon. Andrew Ian Dodge is a writer running for U.S. Senate in Maine as a Libertarian. Dodge says, “I feel that I am particularly attuned to the plight of ordinary folks who are affected by the economy. In one month a few years ago as the recession started to bite I lost 80%. It was in the spring when advertising contracts were re-done & several of the outlets for which I write either stopped paying for content or drastically cut it back. It was, as you can imagine, quite a hit financially.”

I asked him if being low income himself and having a low income social circle presented a problem for fundraising. He responded, “One of the biggest problem is that the elites have all sorts of networks sort up to fund raise. It seems as if they can raise large donations in a few weeks. I have struggled to raise less than $2000 so far. In fact I would say that biggest problem I have faced is fundraising as I do not have the contacts to find the large donors such a campaign needs. I have been able to make things happen in good ways by sheer hard work and drive (and the fact my family has a whole myriad of creative abilities). Everyone else in race has benefited from Federal government largesse as an employee, working for taxpayer funded non-profits or via various forms of corporate welfare. They are seeking the office, or at least it appears they are, to further line their pockets with taxpayer money rather than helping their fellow citizens.

“Before tackling so-called entitlements we need to tackle corporate hand-outs by the government of all kinds including ethanol subsides and all the Federal funds going to ‘clean energy’ (as well as to oil companies, tech companies etc). The Feds should not be picking corporate winners & losers with hard-suffering taxpayers’ funds. No more government bailouts of other industries with working Americans’ hard earned taxes. All Americans & companies should have lower taxes in return for no tax loopholes or subsidies.”

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