A Progressive for Cal Cunningham

Hello folks, my name is Mike Cooper. I’m a volunteer for the Cal Cunningham for Senate Campaign.

For the better part of my life, I had always wanted to be a sports journalist, and was on a set path to make that happen. In college I was already writing for various sports publications, and I thought, on my way to living out my dreams.

Then in 2006, the Military Commissions Act was signed into law. When that happened I was shocked. That act was, to me, unconstitutional, the end of Habeas Corpus, and a blow to everything I thought America stood for.

The very next day, I walked across the campus of Appalachian State University and volunteered at the local Watauga Democratic Party headquarters. I canvassed, made the phone calls and finally got to advocate, and do something about, the issues I cared for. And I was hooked.

The next summer I moved to Vermont to take an internship with Howard Dean’s Democracy For America PAC.

That organization was committed to electing progressive candidates from the school board to the White House. During that summer, I learned from some of the top progressive strategists in the country, and helped to research candidates for DFA’s endorsement.

Over their short history DFA has endorsed many hardcore progressives including Sherrod Brown, Mary Jo Kilroy, Ned Lamont, Darcy Burner, Jerry McNerney, Dina Titus, Chellie Pingree, Donna Edwards, and Al Franken.

After that wonderful experience I was a changed man, and then ready and eager to get involved in progressive politics for good.

When I returned to North Carolina to finish school at ASU, a shocking turn of events occurred. My former high school teacher, and mentor, Roy Carter, announced that he was retiring from teaching to run for U.S. Congress against Virginia Foxx.

So for the next fifteen months I balanced schoolwork with politics, driving down the dirt roads of North Carolina’s High Country spreading the seeds of economic and social redemption.

I pushed Roy to stand for progressive values, took him to visit ASU students who were staging a sit-in in the chancellor’s office because the university was using sweatshop labor to make their apparel, and helped Roy draft his statement coming out against mountain-top removal.

That campaign didn’t win in the voting booth, but the very same ideals and issues we ran on, carried the day across America.

Upon graduation, I moved to Washington, D.C. to carry on the fight. There in our nation’s capital, I began an internship with Congressman Keith Ellison, and a job working for Rev. Lennox Yearwood’s Hip Hip Caucus.

Ellison was a leader in the House Progressive Caucus, and Yearwood was the leading anti-war activist in the country and often referred to as Cindy Sheehan’s “right hand man.”

I was also humbled, and thrilled, to be selected as a 2009 New Leaders Fellow at the Center for Progressive Leadership. So, at least in my opinion, my progressive credentials are unquestionable.

But after half a year in D.C. I felt compelled to return back to Western North Carolina. Neoliberal trade polices had turned my region into a ghost-town. The factories and plants had closed, unemployment was high and hope was low.

And to make matters worse, my home county of Wilkes had become the epicenter of an epidemic, having the worst prescription pill overdose rate in rural America.

I had to do something about what was going on up there, to somehow, someway, fight to save my homeland and put it back in the right direction. I found my answer in the form of an inspiring young candidate for U.S. Senate by the name of Cal Cunningham.

Before Cal announced, I took him with me to meet regular folks in Wilkes, Ashe, Watauga, and Alexander county. He was there not to spew talking points or give a stump speech. He was there to listen.

Like my home area, Cal’s hometown of Lexington hasn’t been hit hard by the current recession, because we’ve been in a recession for fifteen-years now. When you drive across those places you see abandoned buildings, empty warehouses and a landscape filled with trailer parks.

Cal understands the problems we face in the these tough times. And there on that trip through the High Country, I saw him relate to the hard-working folks that make up the backbone of this state. And I saw somebody who was willing to fight, tooth & nail to get North Carolina going again. To bring the jobs back, to fund public education, to restore the middle-class, and to do something for the folks all across this state who feel helpless in this time of uncertainty.

When Cal Cunningham announced, I joined his campaign to help him. Not just to help him win some election, but to help him fight for my neighbors, my friends, and my family.

Cal’s campaign is a campaign of both ideals and ideas. And that’s what inspires me.

My name is Mike Cooper, I’m a Progressive Democrat, and I support Cal Cunningham because he’s our best hope to get North Carolina back on track.


inspiring story

While volunteering on the campaign, I've met many progressives who are realizing that Cal is the candidate who will take the progressive vision to Washington with the fight and energy to get things done for us there.