By Mark Wachtler
April 15, 2015. Commerce, OK. (ONN) The Veterans Party of America made history last week. The young new political party notched its first-ever election victory with an overwhelming win in the race for Mayor of Commerce, Oklahoma on April 7. Michael Hart, the VPA candidate and also the incumbent Mayor, won easily with nearly three-times as many votes as his establishment party challenger. Veterans Party leaders vow that this is only the first of many election victories to come.
Michael Hart won a third term as Mayor of Commerce, OK last week. Image courtesy of the Veterans Party of America.
Odd year municipal elections across America, like those that occurred last week, are typically ‘non-partisan’, meaning only names are listed on the ballot and not political party designations. Half the candidates usually keep their party affiliation secret, so as not to disenfranchise half the electorate. But the other half of the candidates around the country openly embrace and promote their party membership while running for a non-partisan office. That was the case for incumbent Mayor Michael Hart who openly touted and embraced his switch to the Veterans Party before his re-election to a third term last week.
Michael Hart - Mayor of Commerce, OK
While most sitting Mayors wouldn’t have the courage to gamble their office by switching their Party affiliation mid-term, Mayor Michael Hart seems to have benefitted from it. Publicly campaigning as a Veterans Party representative, Hart won re-election over challenger Danny Crafton Jr by a margin of 72% to 27%.“We’re going to continue on the road we’re on,” the victorious Hart told the local Miami News Record on Election night, “We’re ready to motor on full steam ahead.”
For its part, the Veterans Party resembled a proud parent at the birth of a first child. ‘Michael Hart was the first Veterans Party of America elected representative,’ the VPA announced a few days ago, ‘As a seated Mayor, Hart switched to the VPA. Mayor Hart has a degree from Northeastern Oklahoma A&M College, graduated from Commerce High School, and earned his Airborne wings prior to serving in Afghanistan with the United States Army. Mayor Hart is also a Firefighter in his community.’
This is what a Veterans Party candidate looks like
Two weeks prior to the April 7th Election, Mayor Michael Hart did two things that most elected officials would never dare to do. First, he responded honestly to voters when challenged about his relatively young age. And second, Hart publicly announced his affiliation with, and endorsement by, the Veterans Party of America.
“Aren’t you a little young to be Mayor?” was the question posed to Michael Hart, “What qualifications do you have to be Mayor?” Hart responded with professionalism and even a little humor. “According to the law, no I am not too young to be the Mayor,” he responded, “Oklahoma law states an individual must be 18 years of age to run for this office. I am currently 32-years-old. Technically, I am old enough to run for a US Senate or House of Representatives position. I do understand though some people will try to use my age against me. They don't have an actual good reason to dislike me and it’s easy to attack something that only changes once per year.”
He went on to turn the tables on his opponent and use his experience, both in the Service and in the community, to his advantage. “I have presided over approximately 100 City Council meetings since August of 2008,” Michael Hart reminded voters two weeks before the Election, “Before that I spent 6 1/2 years in the US Army as an Airborne Infantryman with the 82nd Airborne Division with combat tours to Afghanistan and Iraq. I was able to learn from some of the best officers and NCOs the Army had to offer including West Point graduates and the current Commanding General of the 82nd. Do I feel like I am qualified to be the Mayor of Commerce? Absolutely!”
Veterans Party seeking candidates
With Mayor Hart in Commerce, Oklahoma proving that a Veterans Party candidate can win elective office, the Veterans Party of America is calling for volunteers to run for office in 2016. Party officials warn though, ‘Each of our candidates must agree to the Veterans Party of America’s demand to be held accountable while in office.’
The VPA call to action goes on to say, ‘In 2014, hundreds of offices across America went unopposed, including seats in the US Senate and US House of Representatives. Additionally, hundreds of other offices had no candidates at all and they were filled by appointment. This is not how our Founding Fathers envisioned the democratic process of elections functioning. It is designed for citizens to have a choice in representation. These are the opportunities for the Veterans Party of America to take office. We need candidates.’
For more information on the Veterans Party of America or to find out how you can run for office as a VPA candidate, visit VeteransPartyOfAmerica.org.
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