Local boater sets a course for Washington
By Pat Reynolds
As I make my way along the sidewalk with the boats of Marina del Rey’s D Basin on my left, I spy my destination along the seawall: a bearded man of about 40 sits reading a paper in a lawn chair on the foredeck of a 45-foot sailboat. Attached to the lifelines is a political banner that reads “Roske for Congress.” The vessel is a Samson ferro cement boat from the 1970s, and I’ve always been intrigued by boats made of cement — in my mind it’s like a boat made of rocks. Nevertheless, this unusual vessel is Brent Roske’s residence and also the nest from which he calculates moves for an equally atypical political campaign.
Roske’s journey, which started out one step beyond a lark, has now become a serious endeavor. His original intention was to challenge 40-year incumbent Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Beverly Hills) to basically shake things up. He offered a “two-for-one” idea that would essentially provide the district with an extra guy (him) who remained in the district while Congress was in session.
A political Independent, Roske wondered publically why things had to be the way they were, suggesting that there should always be someone “sitting in the chair back in the district,” as he says.
To his and everyone else’s surprise, Waxman chose not to outright dismiss this rather odd concept from a fledgling politician.
“I appreciate Mr. Roske’s novel proposal and will think about it some more, but I suspect there would be workability issues,” Waxman told the website Heard on the Hill.
Also to Roske’s surprise, Waxman announced his retirement — a move that’s opened the field to more than 20 candidates, the majority of them relative unknowns in political circles.
Long before Waxman’s retirement announcement, Roske had already been making noise about his bid for office because storytelling and marketing are what he does for a living. As a commercial director and creator of the political web-based episodic “Chasing the Hill,” Roske understands media and believes it is his strongest asset in running a campaign within the financial limitations he has set for himself. Roske does not plan on accepting campaign contributions, saying such cash contributions are an inherent conflict of interest.
“I’m not accepting donations — period,” Roske says. “I read about a senator from the ‘50s, Margaret Chase Smith, the first woman elected to the Senate. She believed, as I do, that you can’t have other people lining your pockets and [in turn] govern fairly.”
Although the emerging politician is at an immediate disadvantage with that particular stance, he is definitely positioning himself in a way that is getting him noticed. Roske does not hide from his lack of political chops and is completely open and welcoming of outside help — especially Waxman’s if he wins the seat. He has promised to travel with cameras and document his day-to-day work if elected.
In his debut commercial — which, of course, he wrote and directed — Roske proposed the Congressional District Council, a brain trust made up of other candidates from the race who would act in an advisory capacity with “all their areas of expertise,” he says.
“I’m not an expert in everything, and neither are they,” says Roske, who continues with a bit of a wry grin. “Now, just to be clear, I haven’t asked any of these people whether or not they’ll serve on this council, but I bet if I get elected, they’ll show up.”
Unusual ideas on the structure of governance aside, Roske is a long shot. But he has had a successful track record for Internet-based guerilla marketing, proven by the success of “Chasing the Hill” and his experience within the advertising industry.
“The only shot I have at winning is for people to say ‘There’s a real guy – do we like the real guy?’” Roske says. “Who said you’re supposed to be a politician to be a politician? Who said you have to be a lawyer?”
If nothing else, it’s refreshing to see a young guy who lives on a sailboat espousing ideas about government transparency.
The next time I see Roske is at Opening Day ceremonies in Marina del Rey. He’s a bridge officer for the Pacific Mariners Yacht Club, working his way up the chain of command at the local club.
I’m not sure how the man will fare in his run for Congress, but commodore of PMYC appears a likely stop in his political future.