Good evening. My name is Arik Bjorn.
I sense relief in the room. “So that’s how he pronounces his name.”
BJORN is Norwegian for bear. And that is precisely the animal that represents my pending campaign against “Status Quo” Joe Wilson. Grizzly, not koala.
MAKE NO MISTAKE: The Wilson Dynasty will fall once and for all in 2016.
I mean that with every ounce of my being. And it will require the same effort from Democrats all across South Carolina’s Second Congressional District.
Every moment between now and the South Carolina June 14 Primary, and then the November 8 General Election, is precious. Let us waste no time.
In these precious minutes, how do I earn the trust of this august body? You before me—you who have served not only the Constitutions of our beloved state and nation, the principles of our Democratic Party, but also the essence of Dr. King’s Dream and, moreover, his Audacious Hope:
I have the audacity to believe that peoples everywhere can have three meals a day for their bodies; education and culture for their minds; and dignity, equality and freedom for their spirits. I believe that what self-centered men have torn down men other-centered can build up.
To earn your trust, I need not dwell on the falsity of my Fake Democratic opponent. His public record speaks clearly for itself. If you need one reminder, consider his recent statement to the Free Times:
There’s not an ounce of difference between a Republican and a Democrat.
His words, not mine. For I believe that there is a chasm of difference. Republicans believe that Government is a four-letter word from which we need protection. They are, flatly, wrong. Democrats know that Government is Good. We are Government. And when “We the People” do our job—which is to link and protect individuals, communities, and industry—Government is a powerful, positive force.
I need not say more about my Fake Democrat opponent to this body. For what farmer ever needed to be told twice there’s a fox in the hen house?
Thus: How do I earn your trust? Perhaps I have already earned it, in part.
Before me are many present and former General Assembly elected officials and staff.
For nearly a decade, I successfully managed the South Carolina SmartState Program, a $2 billion economic development program that builds knowledge-based research centers at our state’s senior research institutions: Clemson University, Medical University of South Carolina, and University of South Carolina.
The SmartState Program was key to putting our state squarely on the Knowledge Economy map. It resulted in the creation of 10,000-plus jobs and major investment by corporate and foundation partners such as BMW, Fluor, Michelin, BASF, and BlueCross BlueShield of SC Foundation. The former director of technology at Microsoft called SmartState “a best-in-kind program that is, or should be, the envy of other states.”
Perhaps I also earned your trust at the local public library. President Eisenhower once wrote, “The libraries of America are and must ever remain the home of free, inquiring minds.” I agree wholeheartedly. Richland Library, where I presently serve, is a South Carolina 2nd Congressional District civic crown jewel—as are all of the public, academic, and K-12 libraries in our District, and state.
Libraries are models of Good Government. Librarians are devoted to public service. Thus, it will surprise no librarian that Lexington County Democratic Party Chair Randy Herald said of me in today’s Lexington County Chronicle: “Mr. Bjorn embodies the Democratic ideals of citizen-oriented service.”
I have not only been endorsed by the Aiken County Democratic Party Executive Committee—thank you, Chair Crawford—but also by the South Carolina AFL-CIO. As you know, neither of these bodies casually hand out formal endorsements.
Why have they endorsed me? Because of my firm stand on the Issues: Living Wage. The abolishment of Right-to-Work. Equal Pay. Healthcare as a Human Right. Increased Economic Opportunities through Increased Education Access. Caretaking the Environment. Justice for all—by which I mean: Black Lives Matter, being an Ally for the LGBTQ community and flushing “bathroom bills” once and for all, the elimination of for-profit prisons (Slavery, Part II).
That’s just the tip of the iceberg.
Legislation and programs that I support—this is by no means a comprehensive list—include The Wage Act; The Employment Non-Discrimination Act; further expansion of the Affordable Care Act (thank you, President Obama, for what you have accomplished!); an Infrastructure Investment Act modeled on WPA as envisioned by both Hillary and Bernie; and President Obama’s ConnectHome and ConnectEd Initiatives. We also desperately need to redirect Ryan White CARE Act funding to South Carolina. The face of HIV/AIDS is increasingly changing to the African-American Rural and Urban South—as our good friend Representative Joe Neal so eloquently stated in the PBS special, “Wilhemina’s War.”
Again, just the tip of the iceberg.
South Carolina’s Second Congressional District is embracing our “There’s a Better Way” message. I conclude with the following campaign moments that may help you understand the pressing needs of, and possibilities for, South Carolina District 2:
We recently engaged voters in Orangeburg County. David Boatwright and 40 other Springfield citizens received us with warmth and grace. They need jobs. They want their Congressperson to help them find a public-private partnership solution to repurpose the abandoned mill near town. They said I was the first congressional candidate—of either party—to visit their surrounding communities in memory.
Last weekend, we spent an afternoon in Barnwell with Representative and County Democratic Party Chair Lonnie Hosey. Representative Hosey described Barnwell’s desperate healthcare situation—they recently lost their only hospital. I don’t see “Status Quo” Joe Wilson doing anything about it—nor my Fake Democrat opponent, who is on record as stating he will discontinue all federal funding for emergency healthcare services.
Several weeks ago, we held what may have been the first transgender meet & greet in South Carolina political history. Dayna Smith, a leading transgender activist in our state, told the group that I had approached her to advocate on their community’s behalf before that barbaric bathroom bill was introduced. And I assured those gathered that I would stand with them long after the bill was flushed forever. Our event included tears, it ended with warm embraces.
As many of you know, my 8-year-old daughter joined me on stage during my South Carolina Democratic Party Convention speech. What you do not know is that I am very selective in asking my daughter to participate in campaign events. However, I knew she would be the only female standing on that stage with the federal candidates. As a father, I wanted my daughter—a future woman in our state—to know what that view feels like. Hopefully other women—other women candidates—will soon know as well.
I could go on. There is the ever strong embrace of Chair Harold Crawford in Aiken County. The hopeful faces of folks I stop to talk to at bus stops all over Columbia. The many times when U.S. Senate candidate Pastor Dixon and I have held out our “ENOUGH!” flags together.
I have managed billion-dollar programs; worked with governors, senators, industry leaders; shepherded legislation; turned policy into reality. But nothing has helped me understand the complexity of government as much as explaining it to my young daughter. Whether my daughter and I are discussing the Confederate Flag, national healthcare, or Presidential campaigns, so many of our conversations conclude, “So you see, there’s a better way.”
My daughter has a bright mind. She heard that phrase enough times that eventually she asked, “Then why don’t you try to show people a better way?”
And that, essentially, is why I stand before you this evening. Thank you for this opportunity to earn your trust.
“There’s a Better Way!”
Latest posts by Arik Bjorn (see all)
- Puerto Rican Paper Towels to Buchenwald Bread Crumbs: #RESIST, While You Still Have Time - October 6, 2017
- “So I Ran for Congress”: Sneak Preview Redux - August 22, 2017
- “So I Ran for Congress”: A Sneak Preview - August 4, 2017