I have, for reasons for conscience and pragmatism moved away from most electoral activist work. I respect those who do this work, but for the most part I’m not comfortable with the incessant compromises one must make to do this kind of activism and have instead decided to focus my energy on direct action with causes and organizations I believe in as well as focus on work in the religious peace community.
But I’m making an exception for one unusual candidate, Ed Shadid. Much of the reason for this exception is that I know him and count him as a friend, and know very well how much his life has changed over the last few years.
A few years ago, I took a call from Ed. He had just a near death experience during the terrible tornados of May 2010. He told me he was a very busy and successful doctor, but that his experience in the tornado convinced him that he had to make his life about more than professional success. He asked for my help with a campaign for state House (I was active in the Oklahoma Green Party in those days) and so I jumped in and helped him. He was incredibly eager and determined to make a change but ended up losing in a heart-breaking 3-way race.
I learned a lot about Ed during his first campaign, most notably about how he could listen to those who disagreed. I remember a couple of times that he and I had spirited conversations on some topic or another that I didn’t agree with him on. While I didn’t change his mind on the particular topic at hand, I was impressed by the fact that he really heard me and cared what I thought, but also wasn’t afraid to tell me that he thought I was wrong. This is so different than what most politicians are like.
During those days I saw Ed struggle to balance his life in activism and his medical practice, and I frankly assumed that he would probably give up on activism after the race and return to his previous fast pace of lucrative medical practice. Who could blame him? He did his part to make a change. It would have been easy to walk from it all and back to regular life. He told me he wanted to keep working for change, but I just didn’t think he would do it.
But I was wrong. Instead Ed plunged in deeper into activism. He made lots of connections in the activist community, among folks doing good work for important causes. And then he ran for City Council and won.
It would have been easy for Ed to then just sit on his laurels. All he had to do was to show up at City Council chambers and cast his votes and then go back to regular life. But he didn’t do that. Instead he plunged into becoming one of the most active and engaged councilors in OKC City council history. And he dared to take on some sacred cows — things like a poorly thought out mass transit program in Map3 that neglected most of the city, or a stupid law that outlawed raising urban hens. Throughout all of these fights, he kept being shot down by our obstructionist Mayor, Mick Cornett, who is good at looking good on TV and for gaining corporate pork for downtown, but a failure at representing all of OKC.
So Ed decided to run for Mayor, which of course scared the powers that be, unleashing possibly the ugliest smear job in local political history by Mick Cornett’s lackeys at The Oklahoman (aka The Daily Disappointment). And yet Ed stood strong. He didn’t back down.
Ed’s life has changed. He still practices medicine but does a lot less of it so he can focus on a life of activism. This is the kind person I want as my mayor. He frankly has been an inspiration to me and a reminder that we all can make big changes in our life, whether it be his recovery from drug addiction or his bold vocational changes.
So get out and vote for Ed Shadid on March 4th. Vote as if your health and well-being (and that of your family and neighborhood) depend on it, because frankly I think it does depend on it. We need a livable sustainable city that is fair to all. Ed is the person who can help make these changes.