Mark Has a History of Challenging Power

Mark is no “Johnny-come-lately” to political activism. His run for Congress is just the latest chapter in a life dedicated to active community engagement.

The dictates of Mark’s faith have always been the “fire” pushing him forward; which has meant that, depending on the issue and the era, he has been pushing on very different points along the political spectrum. His advocacy has never been partisan, but always populist. And along the way, he's been fortunate to find common travelers with whom he could ally and develop creative strategies to challenge entrenched Establishment power.

College Activism

Mark was simultaneously the President of Occidental Christian Fellowship – an evangelical Christian community that was his college’s largest student organization -- and an officer of the Occidental chapter of DSA – the campus’ most progressive political group. Both of those organizations, along with the Student Government – where Mark served as Student Body President his senior year -- were involved in direct action to induce College Administration to divest the College’s endowment from the stock of companies doing business unconditionally with the Apartheid government of South Africa.

Occidental Divestment Rally organized by Mark & other student leaders — 1981

It was in the context of that movement that Mark befriended and collaborated with one “Barry” Obama – an underclassman who sat next to Mark for two terms of Political Philosophy (taught by Tulsa native, Prof. Roger Boesche)!

Law School Activism

During law school, Mark had the honor of being selected for an internship at America’s preeminent civil rights legal advocacy organization – the NAACP Legal Defense Fund. While there, Mark assisted attorney and professor, Lani Guinier, in pursuing Voting Rights Act litigation across the South. He also had the good fortune of working with Staff Attorney, Deval Patrick, in crafting arguments for legal briefs in capital punishment appeals. Deval went on to lead the Civil Rights Division of the Justice Department, and later, served as Governor of Massachusetts.

“Stop Lynching” pin from NAACP Legal Defense Fund

Mark’s civil rights work was not limited to advocacy; he also was involved in law enforcement. During a one-year leave from law school he worked as a civil rights Compliance Specialist at the New York City Bureau of Labor Services (BLS) – which was the municipal agency empowered to assure that City contractors were fully compliant with all federal, state and municipal EEO laws. When Mark was hired, BLS was the first agency nationally to enforce non-discrimination policies based on sexual orientation – which at the time (mid-1980s) was highly controversial.

Local Politics

While raising a family in Connecticut, Mark saw the need for independent advocacy in his town. Along with a group of unusually creative and active Greens, Republicans, and dissident Democrats, he confronted a compromised local political (Democratic) machine -- which was ignoring the needs of the working class and regarding themselves as immune from unseating in deep “blue” Connecticut. Mark and his co-activists founded a Political Action Committee -- the Hamden Alliance for Responsible Taxation (HART) – to attract and organize a "rainbow coalition" to advocate for progressive property tax relief for poor and middle-class residents. They then negotiated a “non-aggression” pact with Town Republicans, selectively ran their own candidates, and entered into a cross-endorsement agreement with Republicans in selected races. They also engaged in street theater and direct action to capture media attention.

Mark engaging in non-partisan street theater in Connecticut - 2007

The coalition ultimately won some target races, and lost some others by razor-thin margins; but more importantly, it broke the monopoly of Establishment Democrats in the Town, and precipitated long-standing progressive populist reforms within the local Democratic Party. After that watershed election Mark appeared regularly before the Town Council, lobbying for Charter reform and ongoing property tax equity.

Presidential Campaigns

Lamenting the limited range of debate in the Presidential Election of 2000 – in which both major parties nominated Establishment candidates (Bush and Gore) – Mark traveled to Boston to participate in a massive protest in an attempt to physically usher progressive Ralph Nader (Green Party) and populist Pat Buchanan (Reform Party) onto the stage at the first Presidential Debate. This would be the third (and thankfully, last) time Mark would be tear-gassed for exercising his First Amendment rights and participating in direct actions.

Then when his old college friend began running for President in 2008, Mark knew he had a unique role to play in Obama’s campaign. Mark canvassed door-to-door extensively during the Primaries – first in New Hampshire, and later in Rhode Island and Connecticut. His job was to “testify” from personal experience to Obama’s qualities of mind. Mark hit the road again for the General Election, ending up in Reading, PA for the final week of the campaign, where he canvassed extensively and served as an official Legal Observer on Election Day.

Obama Election Observer badge from 2008

Since returning to Oklahoma, in addition to canvassing for local candidates of various political affiliations, Mark volunteered a significant amount of time canvassing in support of Bernie Sanders, helping to secure his Presidential Primary victory over Hillary Clinton here in 2016.

NBC Decision 2016: Bernie Sanders is the projected winner in Oklahoma