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From the Trail: My Campaign Launches (Officially?)

Yesterday still feels like a whirlwind.

When I planned my campaign launch event, it felt like a year away. In reality it was about a month away but either way, it felt like something that wouldn't be here for a long time. And the next thing I knew - it was time for the show.

First of all, I put it in the speech but I want to reiterate just how much the kind words from Sarah Schulz meant to me and how much it meant to see people show up to hear me speak. I know it wouldn't be possible without the support of the Midland Democratic Party and the Purple People, so special shout outs to them as well. I got to talk to many of you after the show and share my appreciation, but in case I missed you - please know I appreciated it. Same goes for MI Element. I was able to speak to the owners at the event but I will continue to sing their praises to anyone who will listen and thank them for providing their space.

I won't go into my nerves on the day of, I did that last week. But rest assured the nerves were there (if it wasn't obvious already). But even with some slight hiccups and a couple issues with me letting the mic get too far from my mouth (I'll chalk that up to first time experience), I felt as though it went better than I could have imagined.

I will attach a copy of my speech below so those who couldn't make it can still read it. We tried to record it but unfortunately my phone ran out of space part way through the speech. Next time I will make sure to come prepared for a full recording!

I am in the beginning processes of scheduling the next event, which will be a little different from this one. I am still ironing out plans but if you have any ideas or would like to help, shoot me a message on here or Facebook and I'll get back to you as soon as possible.

As for other going ons with the campaign, we officially raised enough money to pay for our banner! Next goal is to get a quote on some business cards so I have something to hand to people during chance encounters and events. I've been asked for them a few times already and feel bad I wasn't able to give them one at the time. Rest assured that will be addressed soon!

We are working on building out a campaign team. The team will largely be remote, with monthly meet ups at various casual locations (read: a bar or coffee shop). I'm calling it the "inner circle" in an entirely tongue in cheek tone, but I know it's an important step to take. So many people have helped me coordinate and execute this campaign, and I am appreciative. I like to think of all of this as a collaborative effort and the volunteers and help I've had so far have been a huge part of that.

ActBlue should be active later this week or early next week, which will be a tremendous help for donations and fundraising. I don't expect or even particularly want a lot of money in my coughers, more just enough to pay for this website and some printed items (posters, mailers, fliers, cards, etc.). But we can worry about that stuff another day. In the mean time, let's be happy with what we've accomplished but not content. This is still an uphill battle and I know the odds will be tough, but this is a labor of love and I will continue to push this boulder up this mountain, appreciative of all the extra hands along the way.

Below this divide will be my speech from yesterday:


Good afternoon! Thank you all for being here. My name is Matt Dawson, and I am running to be the democratic nominee for the 95th district here in Midland county and parts of Gladwin county.

Before I get started I want to give a special thank you to Sarah Schulz for her kind words and support along the way, Jennifer Austin and the Midland Democratic Party for their warm welcome, and MI Element for allowing me to be here today. If you haven’t yet, try a nutella croissant. You will probably be hooked on them but it’s worth it.

Unless you are my wife, family, or friends - and by the way, a special thank you to them for being here to ensure I wouldn’t be speaking to an empty room - you probably aren’t too familiar with me.

First, a short background on me; I am a lifelong Midland county resident, splitting my time between the city of Midland and Sanford. I graduated from Midland High before attending SVSU. After graduation I began a career as a business consultant with Deloitte & Touche. In that role I traveled the country, hitting 48 states in 4 years. I got to work with owners and property managers from all walks of life and different countries, as well as help roll out products and develop quality assurance programs for companies like Walmart, Kellogg’s, and several hospitality chains.

In 2020, Deloitte made the decision in the midst of the pandemic to lay off a good portion of their workforce, including myself. Being let go by a billion dollar corporation in the midst of a pandemic, losing health insurance for me and my wife, and being left without a clue what to do next was something I never envisioned having to deal with. After feeling sorry for myself for a bit, I dusted myself off and went about figuring out what to do next.

With no job and no immediate career path, I could have either found a job as a consultant with another company or try a different field. I wanted to work in something I could feel was actually helping people and bringing positivity into the world, and I decided to get involved in the cannabis industry, which is where I’ve been working for the last year. I truly believe in the efficacy of cannabis and its ability to help people. I believe this because I’ve heard, seen, and experienced it all first hand. I have customers on an almost daily basis who come in and tell me how cannabis has helped them get off of or lower their dependency on prescription opiates that left them feeling like walking corpses. Cannabis gives them the opportunity to live life without having to choose between the fog of opioids or the blinding pain that they get from various ailments. Not only that, it can and does have a tremendous effect on mental health.

But I’m not here to discuss the efficacy of cannabis. As strongly as I may feel about it, I am not a one issue candidate and I know it’ll take a lot more than that to help Midland grow. Instead, I am here to make a tremendous ask of each and every one of you; to consider casting a ballot for me this year.

Before I went into the business world, my original intent was to be a public school teacher. Growing up in Midland gave me some of the best teachers I could ever ask for. I wanted to do what they did. I wanted to help the next generations learn not just basic curriculum but to truly love learning, no matter the form it takes, just as my teachers did for me. Unfortunately as I proceeded through college I would watch people ahead of me in school graduate and come back with horror stories. I tried to ignore them, after all there is always a bit of a shock going from college to the “real world,” but after witnessing it for myself and hearing teachers talk about it behind the scenes, I realized the sad truth and made the decision to try an alternative career path. Teachers are underpaid, schools are underfunded, and possibly worst of all - support does not seem to be on the horizon.

Teachers are constantly stuck in the middle of a tug of war between parents and administrators, often feeling stuck on an island. The pandemic exacerbated a problem that was already prevalent and added to it by making them responsible for the enforcement of various cleaning methods, protective gear, and not to mention school shooting drills and a litany of other problems that AREN’T actually related to, well, teaching. This is not what educators signed up for.

These teachers are being cut down at the knees before they even get a chance to get their footing. My education beliefs are simple - support our teachers and do our part as a community to ensure they get the respect and help they need to do their jobs to the best of their ability. If our teachers are happy, supported, and not burnt out, those benefits will pass down onto children and benefit them in ways that we can’t even imagine.

Another primary concern of mine is access to healthcare. To help explain this, allow me to be vulnerable and share some background on my own story - In 2018, my dad began to experience lingering leg pain. At the time he couldn’t afford healthcare or to go to the hospital. He just assumed it was a pulled muscle and went about his business. But when it got to the point where he couldn’t stand or sleep, he knew he had to go get help no matter the cost. By the time he finally received this help in late 2018, the doctors found that my dad had undiagnosed diabetes and blood clots that had been ravaging his veins and organs, causing the leg pain he had been feeling. They performed multiple procedures and tried to do what they could to save his legs. My then-fiancee, now wife, and I were in the middle of wedding planning. I remember sitting next to my dad’s hospital bed while he cried and told me he just wanted to keep his legs long enough to walk down the aisle at my wedding.

My dad never made it to the wedding.

One July morning, my dad - who had been on the mend and trending in the right direction - had an unexpected complication from one of his procedures to save his leg and didn’t survive. I still remember sitting in the quiet room of the ER and being faced with the decision to tell the doctor to stop their attempts to resuscitate him. I will never forget that day and I will wonder until my last breath if I made the right decision by him.

I don’t tell this story often. In fact, just thinking about that day gives me a lump in my throat and a pit in my stomach. So why do I tell it? Not to score imaginary political points but rather to share my pain and my hurt because I know I’m not alone. I know that others in this community and probably in this room have a loved one or know someone who has passed away due to something that could have been prevented if the cost of medical attention wasn’t so prohibitive.

Access to preventative healthcare and healthcare in general is a key issue for my campaign. I want to help enact legislation that can guarantee that any Michigander has the ability to be seen by medical professionals and afford the medications they need to help save their lives. Financial status should not be a barrier to overcome in terms of personal health.

This applies to mental health as well. Something I have been very encouraged by in recent years is the de-stigmatization of mental health problems. We all deal with these problems or know people who do, so why pretend it doesn’t exist? The more educated we can be as citizens, the more empathy and understanding we can pass along to our fellow Michiganders.

Empathy for our fellow Michiganders is important to me, and ties into a lot of my stances on issues. For example, income inequality is prevalent all over this state and in our own city. Affordable housing has been cleared out for million dollar properties that seem to straddle a line of being too expensive for the working class and not big enough for the wealthy.

Another issue, climate change, whether we like it or not, is coming and the next generation is being faced with data that shows them they may not have a habitable world for their entire lifespan. Maybe we can make it through life without being faced by this reality, but those younger than us and any children that they may have are going to be burdened with a catastrophic outlook that only adds to preexisting problems.

Empathy and understanding ties directly into my last point. The political sphere has become a hotbed of building boogeymen. Whether it’s CRT, litter boxes, child grooming, ANTIFA, QAnon, etc., it has become too much and too dangerous. We need to stop demonizing each other and instead focus on actual issues and how we can improve the lives of everyone in the area, not just the left or right. Humanize, not demonize.

Just within the last couple of weeks, a GOP state senator accused a democratic senator of being a child grooming pedophile who was sexualizing kindergartners. Let’s start off by saying this is a wildly false accusation not supported by any evidence whatsoever. The fact of the matter is that this is just the latest example of ratcheting up hate speech and demonization simply because you disagree with someone’s politics. This is precisely why we have issues with politicians not reaching across party lines and putting the good of the state ahead of their ranking in their own party. Our politicians have allowed and some have even promoted this idea of turning on each other and painting each other with the most disgusting labels possible - and they don’t do it because they care about you. They do it because they want as much power as possible and the more unity and legitimate discourse there is, the less power they have as an individual politician.

I want to bring a sense of community back to our community. Let’s get hate speech, anger, and attacking each other out of our lives. They only serve as a hindrance to the ability of our area to improve and advance.

Last month I was in this room listening to Representative Dan Kildee give an impassioned speech about what being a representative means and the honor it is to be elected to represent a community. I listened to him talk about how much we all have in common. That what we want, and that applies to democrats, republicans, and everything in between, is way more aligned than we may think. We all want our own personal freedoms guaranteed, we all want our community to be safe and successful, we want good schools to give good educations to our children and we want them to grow up and be able to find work that allows them to thrive and bring even more success to the city, state, and country. We have repeatedly fallen for tricks, misdirections, and attacks that have weakened our sense of community and created echo chambers that allow attacks like the one I just mentioned to go unchecked.

I use the phrase “vote for a person, not a party” and I mean it. If you truly think the better candidate and better representative for you is a republican, vote for them. If you think it’s a democrat, vote for them. We should not be married to one party and forced to support them no matter what. While I may personally feel as though more often than not the democrat is the better candidate, that doesn’t mean it’ll always be true. We as voters should be more concerned about who our representatives are as people than what party they are a part of. Because you can fake a political belief, but you can’t fake authenticity and heart.

I’ll wrap up my speech by saying that I know the odds are stacked against us. Midland has never elected a democrat to the state legislature. This is entirely an uphill battle, and I know they’ll try and sling mud and put labels on me. I personally can’t wait for an attack ad that tries to claim I’m a socialist or something. Even with those odds and even with those attacks,I need to make one thing clear; I am not going to go quietly or continue on without putting all of myself into this campaign. To surrender or not even try is to accept defeat with 100% certainty, and I won’t do that. I want to bring a voice to working class Midlanders and Michiganders. I want your representative to be one of you. And I believe that is exactly what I bring to the table.

Again, I want to thank you for considering my viewpoints and taking the time out of your day to be here. It truly means a lot to me to see the support that working class, progressive ideals can bring in the community. I look forward to getting the chance to meet and speak with all of you on this journey, and it starts today. Feel free to come up and say hi, tell me what your concerns are, and help me be the best representative I can be for you. After all, it’s in the job description. Thank you.

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