K. Andrea Salas, Temple University // Written on January 31, 2020
“’Conserva-tarian’, Jeffersonian, JFK Democrat, small ‘l’ libertarian. What MLK and Barry Goldwater would want in a modern candidate” is how Mark Stewart is described on his 2020 presidential campaign website titled “Stewart for Liberty.” Densely filled with videos and articles on all types of issues from immigration to healthcare, the website serves as an insight into Stewart’s position and thoughts on each, demonstrating his passion for politics.
The Connecticut native began his political journey during his time at Dartmouth College, where he studied government. After college, Stewart moved to Colorado, where he recalls becoming increasingly interested in politics, reading up on the subject at the local Vail Public library on nights when he wasn’t working in restaurants.
Today, Mark Stewart works at the company he founded, Education Excellence. Focused on providing high school students with outsourced, in-school guidance counseling, the program revolves around granting students a greater variety of post-graduation opportunities. It is his involvement in business and education which Stewart points to when asked about the type of politician he would make. “Small business operation is the best experience for running a government org,” Stewart says in a phone interview.
Unlike many other minor presidential candidates, the former lawyer and current businessman is no novice to running for office. Having previously ran for US senator in 2006, Vice President in 2016, and Governor of Connecticut in 2018, Stewart is a veteran candidate. His 2020 presidential campaign is one of three times that he has run for president, the first being in 2000 and the second in 2016.
His considerable involvement in campaigns has allowed him to meet numerous other politically passionate individuals, including libertarian Darryl Perry, who himself ran as a Presidential candidate in 2016. Perry considers himself a “close-acquaintance” of Stewart, and although he disagrees with his political tactic of running in the duopoly party system, he agrees that Stewart’s voice is “valuable in the political discussion.”
A self-declared conservative Democrat, Mark Stewart advocates for ‘social permissibility’ and fiscal conservatism; in other words, he favors limited government involvement on social issues, and cutting government spending. Stewart believes that his moderate political leanings could give him an edge in targeting young voters. “You and your generation haven’t seen a single prominent presidential candidate who is socially liberal, and fiscally conservative. My candidacy should be interesting, especially for people under 40, because I’m convinced that a majority of people under 40, that’s their mantra,” Stewart says.
Stewart is also a fierce constitutionalist who believes that for too long, Congress has veered from the Constitution, thus creating unconstitutional legislation. “Obamacare is not constitutional. Medicare is not constitutional. There is no power of Congress that allows that kind of control over our liberties.”
Stewart’s main area of concern is freedom of speech, which he deems to be under attack by progressives. “You can say all you want if you are a progressive on a college campus, if you’re a conservative, you might be permitted, and still students will be allowed to harass you. You might not be permitted in the first place. That is a squelching of free speech.” Stewart also identified identity politics as a restrictor of free speech, stating that in the current political climate, only those of a certain group may speak on matters pertaining to that group. “When in discourse, people think badly of you, because of who you are rather than what you are saying.”
Drawing from his background in education and politics, Stewart began a radio show, “Mr.edu” around 2017. The first 30 minutes of his podcast was dedicated to all things education and SAT prep, leaving the rest of the hour for his libertarian teachings. It was through this podcast that Stewart met Elliot Axelman, who appeared as a guest on Stewart’s show before moving up to co-host and later, inherited the podcast after Stewart left it behind to pursue his governor’s campaign in 2018. Although the radio show is no longer on air, Axelman has since downloaded all of the episodes to “The Liberty Block” – a pro-libertarian website. These days, the site is dedicated to posting articles. Still, Axelman considers Stewart as a mentor of talk radio. “He would remind me to slow down when I speak, to speak clearer and stop saying um so many times,” Axelman says.
Axelman remains close friends with Stewart, and when asked about Stewart’s presidential campaign, he chuckled. “It was definitely interesting, I’d been involved in the Libertarian party leadership a bit in New York, so I knew that people that aren’t quite at the magnitude of Trump or Clinton do run for president and they do it somewhat realistically. Some think they can win; others just want to get the message out there and have a good justification for meeting a lot of people, which is what Mark is doing. I think that’s great.”
As of now, Stewart’s campaign staff consists of himself, however, he mentioned that he is always looking for volunteers. These days, Stewart’s campaign efforts consist of greeting constituents at shopping areas, attending events in New Hampshire, and organizing campaign events, though he laments, they have not been well attended.
Although he realizes that his current presidential campaign will most likely come to an end following the primaries, Stewart remains more than ready to take on the role of President or Vice-President if the voters allow for it.
Stewart said that this presidential campaign is serving as an advertisement for his future plans to run for state elections. Why not just run for those positions directly? Stewart believes that if he manages to make some leeway in a big election like the presidential one, he may inspire other everyday people to run for local office. “I think right now, a lot of people are afraid to put themselves in the mix. Traditionally they have been afraid because they don’t think that politics is for them. I’m a homemaker, I’m a businessman, that’s not for me. But politics affects your home, politics affects your business, politics affect your schools.”
Ultimately, Stewart just wants “better people running for congress.”
When I asked why he has not run for local office, Stewart answered that he is content with the way in which his town’s political scene is running. He does, however, plan to run for political office in 2022. “I would love to be the governor of a northeast state,” says Stewart, identifying Connecticut, New Jersey and New York as possible states he might run for.
Stewart wants to remind young adults to register and vote. “You deserve to express yourselves.”
Additional information can be found in the links below: