DITMAS PARK – Rep. Yvette Clarke has a new opponent and it’s the social justice advocate Michael Hiller who announced his run to represent the Ninth Congressional District Monday afternoon.
“Today, I am proud to announce that I am running for Congress,” he said. “Today on Bruce Springsteen’s 70th birthday. I feel like I was born to run.”
In the half-our announcement speech, Hiller, who is now joining candidates Adem Bunkeddeko and Isiah James in the race, brought up a range of issues from inadequate healthcare, to affordable housing, to gun violence, and to corporate PAC money. He even spoke directly to Congresswoman Yvette Clarke (who has served in Congress since 2007, following in the footsteps of her mother Una Clarke) and said, “Ms. Clarke, I am challenging you within the ten days to give back all of the money you received from corporate special interests and PAC’s and return it to them so you can represent the people, at least until the next election.”
Hiller did not hold back when he spoke about the Ninth District’s current representative in Congress, saying Clarke “hasn’t written and passed a single piece of legislation that’s been enacted into law since shes been installed as a member of Congress 12 years ago. The people of this district deserve more and they deserve better.”
Standing in the heat in front of Brooklyn Public Library’s Cortelyou Branch, Hiller spoke about climate change and how Congress needs to pass meaningful legislation.
“[Climate change] is not just a national security issue. This is a serious threat to our entire planet and yet Congress continues to take no action,” he said. “Today, asylum seekers are placed in cages, children have been separated from their parents, and ICE acts like secret police demanding that people show their papers.”
Hiller noted that as a first-generation American whose family was granted asylum in 1940, he found it heartbreaking and unacceptable to see that “rather than breaking down walls in America, Donald Trump and Republicans in Congress are dedicating themselves to building walls. And not just at our Southern Border.”
“They’re building a wall between us, dividing Americans against Americans. Dividing us against the basis of race, ethnicity, and religion, particularly against our Muslim brothers and sisters,” he said. “We need to stand together. We need to lock arms and fight in solidarity against the lawless presidential administration that cares more about perpetuating its own authority than using its power for justice and goodness.”
Hiller believes that his own personal journey makes him the best candidate to represent the Ninth District. Hiller was born and raised in NY, attended public school, and worked his way through college and law school with multiple jobs, taking tens of thousands of dollars in loans. He was a social justice advocate for 25 years, where he fought against gentrification and real estate developers. He said he has fought time and time again to protect the rights of disabled people and to legalize weed.
“We have fought and we have won,” he said. “I believe in an America that made it possible for someone like me to work his way through college and through law school, start a family, make a career in the greatest city in the world, all as a first-generation American.”
Hiller promised that he won’t take a penny from special corporations and urged every member of Congress to do the same.
“If you’ve ever wondered why Congress can’t pass meaningful gun reform legislation that almost every American in the US supports… If you’ve ever wondered why pharmaceutical companies are permitted to charge tens of thousands of dollars for drugs that can be purchased for a fraction of a cost in other countries… we need to look no further than the corporate PAC’s that have the run of Congress.”
When Bklyner asked how he plans on navigating the tensions between “The Squad”, which consists of four women of color and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, he said the simple solution is just working with both.
“I want to work with whoever I need to to get things done. If I’m working with ‘The Squad,’… I’m glad to work with them. If I need to work with Nancy Pelosi to get work done, I’m going to work with Nancy Pelosi,” he said. “I’m going to work with whoever I need to make sure we can pass a legislative platform that benefits the people of the US and this district.”
Hiller said he can’t wait to get on the campaign trail and said he looks forward to seeing the community support him.
“I can’t sit idly by and do nothing and watch this assault on our national character,” he said. “I believe in an America in which we are proud of our leaders in Washington, not ashamed of them. An America where we stand together as one nation, regardless of our differences. But it isn’t enough merely to believe. We need to fight.”
We reached out to Rep. Clarke for comment and her office did not respond.