Primary Election - TUESDAY AUGUST 18
My name is Mike Henkel, and I’m running to win State House District 67. My roots run deep in the district. As a child, I was raised on Clearwater Beach. I consider myself very fortunate for that. From days exploring the sun, sand and Gulf with my brothers, to being among the first group of kids to take advantage of a Clearwater Marine Aquarium summer camp, I learned early on to respect and take care of our environment. I attended local public schools, and after graduating from Clearwater High School in 1985, I went on to SPJC and Florida State University. My political science degree came with a focus in public administration and a minor in urban and regional planning. Having lived here my entire life, I have gotten to see the incredible growth that makes the Clearwater / Largo area what it is today.
Over the years, I have been involved in activism, protesting, supporting, and signing more environmental and social justice petitions than I can remember, all the while wishing there was someone more progressive on the other end to receive them. In my college days, I joined the Florida Public Interest Research Group (FPIRG). Important issues regarding consumer safety and working to block oil rigs on our coast filled my spare time. Volunteering in the public interest led me into my post-graduation life. Inspired that we needed to do more to protect our natural resources and manage growth in the state, I campaigned as a Democrat for this same State House seat. The year was 1992. I envisioned a future filled with organic agriculture for all. I talked up light rail and renewable energy. I also was among the first to publicly support the decriminalization and legalization of marijuana for both medical and personal use. Additionally, I saw a need to protect our aquifer, springs, and water supply from corporate takeovers and pollution. Recently, a conservative friend of mine threw me a compliment on my 1992 campaign and vision for the district and the state, saying “my platform was ahead of its time.”
Soon after that ’92 campaign I became a father. As an underemployed college graduate and a new dad, I knew I had my work cut out for me. I held a variety of jobs while looking for the “right one.” I struggled to find my professional niche, but I learned a lot along the way. I decided to turn to a few of my life passions for career inspiration. A lifelong soccer player and coach, a health foods advocate and activist, and a music enthusiast, I thought of a variety of dream jobs and startup potentials. In 1998, I began my career at Nature’s Food Patch, a Clearwater natural foods market. The idea of working for a family-owned local business and being around positive, like-minded coworkers was exactly what I wanted. Being able to serve the public by educating and helping them with their food choices was a perfect role for me.
While raising my son, it felt great to feed him natural and organic choices free from food coloring, preservatives, and pesticides. I was, and still am, inspired to help make more health foods accessible to everyone. I progressed into management early on in my career, and I feel I have had a positive impact on the store’s growth. We recently opened a second location in Dunedin, where I serve as the store manager. I’ve held leadership roles, and represented in the community for both industry and public events, including service organizations like the Clearwater Community Garden and the Beach Chamber of Commerce. I provided input for the Gateway District development plan. I’ve also worked on petition campaigns against genetically modified foods, signed on to the Earth Charter, and have campaigned to protect organic agriculture. COVID-19 has changed our lives and the way we do business. I realize the added responsibility to stay open and serve the community in these challenging times, while ensuring our team and our customers are kept safe.
Our Native American elders have a principle, which in more simple terms, says to “think seven generations ahead in all our decisions.” With overwhelming scientific evidence of human-induced climate change, I never thought it would be such a challenge to help ensure a better future for our children. Even with a decade of record heat waves, and other extremes in weather and weather related disasters both across the globe and right here at home, we remain stagnant on action despite having the answers. We are desperately in need of a change in leadership, and I am asking for your support to help make that happen. I believe in science, and I believe we can do much better protecting our children’s future!
As a progressive Democrat, I believe we can flip this district blue and win a victory for future generations. In general, I hold similar views as most Democrats on the issues, But I would like to give you some more of my history, and differentiate my "progressive" self a little bit more. After the voter fraud debacle of Election 2000, I re-registered as a Green. I was disgruntled by Democratic politicians turning moderate, and moderately ineffective once they won office. I felt the two-party system in general needed a challenge as it seemed like big money controlled it. I wanted to work to protect the people's vote, and attempted to gain support for a mandatory paper trail recount as one of the most logical tools we could use to make sure an election wasn’t stolen again. I felt good about focusing on other issues that could create change too, like ranked choice / instant runoff voting. Like many of us, I resorted to the "arm-chair" activism of phone calls, emails and petition drives. I continued my education with a Certificate in Permaculture (Sustainable Living) Design, and in 2006 I brought the design's Principles in Sustainability to the table in an unsuccessful run for a seat on the Dunedin City Commission.
Two of Permaculture's guiding principles are Care for the Earth, and Care for People. This seems like a sensible way to approach politics. In 2010, I put some of that schooling to use, serving on Clearwater's Greenprint Advisory Committee. We worked in conjunction with city staff to come up with a plan to protect the city's green space, enhance mobility, increase energy self sufficiency, and take environmental responsibility to a new level, helping to lay the foundation for a sustainable Clearwater.
After a stint with the no-party affiliate/independent-minded voters, I re-registered as a Democrat. The 2016 Democratic Primary served as inspiration, and I wanted to be part of it. I felt President Obama's successful 8 years gave us much to build on, and I wanted to make sure the presidency stayed in Democratic hands. Both Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton inspired for different reasons, and both of their losses pointed out needed reforms. One in how we select the party's nominee, and the other in how we select our president. Reforms are needed in how we govern ourselves as a nation and protect our democracy. Specifically, I am for dissolving the electoral college in favor of electing our president by popular vote.
As a Democratic candidate for State House District 67, and as a legislator should I win, I will call out for action in the face of injustice. We can not sit silently by while our president praises dictators, shames our allies, and criminalizes those that stand up against fascism. All this while separating families at the borders, and putting kids in cages without their parents. We are better than that. In the face of global warming, COVID-19, and social injustices, we need strong representation at both federal and state levels to protect our democracy and future generations. I want to be that voice that represents you at the state level.
Democrats recognize science, and the values of a new generation. I will move forward with a positive and Progressive Vision for 2020, one that Democrats, Independents, and progressive-minded Republicans can believe in and participate in. I welcome all who are ready to act on climate and shift toward a more humane approach in policy decisions. In this new age, I will fight to protect our ability to have quality health care for all, a public educational system that protects the traditional, and for an economic and environmentally resilient, sustainable future.
We see a shift in the our national priorities and have a sense of urgency perhaps like never before. We all know we are at a critical time in history, for our planet as well as for our democracy. We have a president that needs help retiring this November, along with his enablers in Congress and everywhere down the line. As your candidate, I will work hard to help turn out the vote and flip this district blue. With your help we can win this campaign! As your representative, we will move our collective vision forward! You are invited to participate in and support my campaign, and join with me in sharing a 2020 Vision, and help build a better tomorrow for us all.
Our Native American elders have a principle which in more simple terms, says to “think seven generations ahead in all our decisions” ....I believe in science, and I believe we can do much better protecting our children’s future!