A part of UCI’s class of 1997, Duane Roberts is all for environmental and social justice. So much so, in fact, that he doesn’t even own a car; rather, he uses public transportation wherever he goes. Now a member of the Green Party, Roberts is running for the United States Senate, up against Barbara Boxer and Carly Fiorina. Being a part of this particular third party means that he runs a strict grassroots campaign and refuses to accept campaign contributions from corporations.
“I don’t need $33 million to wage an effective campaign,” Roberts said. “All I need is a $33 a month internet connection.”
According to Roberts, the availability of the Internet makes it possible for third party candidates to run a successful campaign. Combine the ease and popularity of the Internet with current voter disapproval towards Republicans and Democrats and third parties are suddenly right in the mix.
For Roberts, becoming a community activist was natural. Growing up in Anaheim, his father focused more on church than his family and his mother believed that she could teach her son better than the poor public schools. As a result, he was mainly self-taught and was a shy child. As a teenager, he loved reading and would spend hours at university libraries. He even memorized the layout of UCI’s Langson Library, as well as the librairies of Cal State Fullerton and Cal State Long Beach. Roberts particularly found himself drawn to science fiction and nonfiction genres; it was actually Thomas Paine’s The Age of Reason that laid the groundwork for who he is today.
“That book had a dramatic influence on my perceptions. It changed my views on religion and philosophy,” said Roberts.
At UCI, Roberts earned a degree in criminology, law and society. He had always been interested in the social sciences and pursued this degree because it presented a multidisciplinary approach.
“There are just some topics that cannot be self-taught,” Roberts said. “Even though I had already been exposed to many topics in my own reading material, UCI gave me knowledge that I could never have gotten myself.”
Upon graduation, he became more active in his local community, going to different neighborhood meetings and even enrolling in classes offered by the police department to learn more about how they operated.
As he got more involved, Roberts then began fighting against police brutality, working with community organizers which taught him how to be an effective activist.
“The irony of that whole experience is that I used what the police taught me against them,” Roberts said. He quickly started making ground and earning a good reputation within his community. He used the California Public Records Act to legally get insider information available to the public. Eventually, he learned more about how the system worked, and how it gained influence and power.
Roberts worked for the Orange County Superior Court as a courtroom assistant for domestic violence cases, which gave him a first-hand look at how the court system worked. It also gave him the opportunity to interact with attorneys, judges and defendants.
Roberts became aware that the Anaheim Union High School District Board of Trustees was scapegoating the children of undocumented workers and blaming them for overcrowded classrooms. Roberts was quick to say that the real culprit was the city and the school district. The city focused on short-term gain and ignored that major businesses like Disney meant more blue-collar workers in the neighborhood, which ultimately lead to more children in their school system.
Roberts ran for a position on the Anaheim Union High School District Board of Trustees. Although not elected, he became the first Green Party candidate endorsed by the Orange County Central Labor Council, a major accomplishment for a third party.
Soon after, Roberts found himself exposing a political scandal. One member of the Anaheim School Board lied about his address, when he actually lived in a million-dollar home in Corona del Mar. In addition to being on the Board, this member was backed by Congressmen and Senators.
Roberts used his knowledge of the California Public Records Act to obtain the man’s election file from the Registrar of Voters, which included his declaration of residency statement and a copy of a check that had his Corona del Mar address on it. He asked the district attorney’s office to prosecute the physician for perjury. As the case dragged on, more questionable acts were found, one of which caused Anaheim to change its municipal code.
This exposure put Roberts on the map. He began receiving calls from politicians and public officials because they were acknowledging that he was a serious activist who actually knew what he was doing.
“I did it because I feel that public officials should be held accountable for their actions,” Roberts said.
Now Roberts is in the midst of a fierce political race for the United States Senate. He wanted to run because he was angry at the Health Care Reform Bill that the Obama administration passed earlier this year. He staunchly believes that it is a $500 billion dollar taxpayer bailout for the private health care industry. Instead, he supports a “single payer ‘Medicare-for-all’ type system,” which would ensure that every person has access to the quality health care they deserve.
Roberts also favors the immediate withdrawal of all U.S. troops from Iraq and Afghanistan. He believes the money saved would guarantee that every qualified student in the country, regardless of citizenship, could obtain a tuition-free education.
He also calls for a repeal of all the federal laws that prohibit marijuana and hemp for medicinal, recreational and industrial purposes.
“Marijuana prohibition is a waste of money. This is money that could be better spent to fight violent crime,” Roberts said.
Finally, he is opposed to the construction of nuclear power plants, which requires substantial taxpayer subsidies. Instead, Roberts would rather our country invest in safe, cheap renewable power like solar energy.
Roberts concluded, “In the upcoming elections, I hope people vote for the candidate that best reflects their views, not their party affiliation.”