Matt Silverman: 'If you can't put others first, you yourself will never succeed.'
Matt Silverman may be the youngest and most politically inexperienced of the four Democratic candidates running to replace U.S. Rep. Tammy Baldwin (D-Madison) in Congress, but he stole the show at Wednesday night's District 2 Congressional candidate forum.
The forum, hosted by the Dane County Democrats at the Concourse Hotel, is the last time the candidates will be together before the primary election on Tuesday, August 14. It rehashed what has already become evident in this very progressive race: front-runners Mark Pocan and Kelda Roys are strikingly similar on essentially all relevant issues.
Silverman acknowledged the fact that he's not the top contender in this race. His opening statement began timidly, but as the evening went on, he became more comfortable in front of the crowd, consistently cracking jokes about his rookie status -- "I see no one is wearing my stickers..." (he didn't print stickers) -- and the Republican Party.
But Silverman showed a lot more than just talent for one-liners. Pocan remarked that Silverman deserved the "creative idea award" of the night for the inventive policies he proposed. One was an ROTC-style program for teachers where future educators could attend school at the federal government's expense before being placed in a community to teach.
The UW-Madison alum is drastically behind his opponents in campaign fundraising, but he's found more frugal ways to put himself out there. From May through June, Silverman embarked on a 500-plus-mile walk through all six counties of the district. He used it as an opportunity to get to know his constituents and to stay overnight at local residents' homes when possible.
In the spirit of hearty, Democratic debate Wednesday night, Pocan and Roys continued to expound upon the nuances of their similar progressive values. Both called for "100% public campaign funding" and agreed that earmarks can be a useful funding source.
"It's about serving your constituents," Roys said.
Both front-runners were excited when the forum presented an opportunity to discuss the War Powers Resolution, an issue that hadn't been brought up previously. Not surprisingly, Pocan and Roys were in agreement. Both believe the separation of powers should be honored and Congress should have more of a say in matters of war.
Pocan elaborated on the issue by emphasizing his peaceful approach to politics. He said he believes all diplomatic options should be exhausted before war.
"Our troops need to come home a whole lot quicker," he said.
Silverman, a veteran, said his military background helps him maintain perspective, and attributed his relevant knowledge to his eight years in active duty and the reserves.
"If you can't put others first, you yourself will never succeed," he said.
During his closing statement, he admitted the race has been challenging but added, "I served for years on the front line in Iraq. I can't say [this campaign] has been the hardest thing I've ever done."
Silverman used the remainder of his closing statement to thank his opponents for the bonds that were created on the campaign trail. He simply urged the audience to vote, sparing a personal "vote for me" plug. His opponents seemed captivated and Silverman looked like he might tear up. When his two minutes were up, the room erupted in applause and Roys enthusiastically shook his hand as he sat down.