Dr. Bob Johnson, the Democratic candidate for New York's 23rd Dist. seat in Congress, held a fundraising gala in Oswego Friday evening. Featured speaker for the evening was celebrity Viggo Mortensen.
Mortensen, best known as an actor for his role in films such as Lord of the Rings, Hidalgo, and History of Violence, is also a writer, poet, artist and musician. He came to Oswego as part of a three-day speaking tour to help Johnson's campaign.
Johnson is running unopposed as the Democratic candidate. He is a thoracic surgeon in Watertown and lives in Sackets Harbor. He faces Republican incumbent John McHugh, from Watertown.
Mortensen, also from Watertown, says he has a 'soft spot' for McHugh because they share a hometown, but added that that's where the similarities end.
'Bob Johnson is a full-time doctor,' Mortensen said. 'He doesn't need the job. He doesn't need the burden. He's someone who actually lives what he believes.'
Mortensen explained how he came to support Johnson as a candidate, and why he offered to help with his campaign. 'I don't take decisions like this lightly,' Mortensen said. 'I try to be selective, to be as picky as I can. The few individuals who are as sincere as Bob Johnson, they have a hard time getting their voices heard.'
Mortensen continued, 'After I learned as much as I could about him as a candidate, I wanted to know him as a person. He's not a professional politician. He's a real, concerned person.'
That's why Mortensen was making the effort to help Johnson's campaign, including the guest appearance Friday in Oswego. The gala was held at The American Foundry, as a $75-a-person fundraiser. Mortensen also brought a number of personal items with him to 'sell' in order to help fund Johnson's campaign.
Mortensen drove himself to Oswego in his own car...no limousines or chauffeurs.
Johnson has been campaigning as a non-typical, antithesis of a candidate. He refuses to accept PAC (political action committee) money, and 95 percent of his contributions are from local people. Johnson also has a number of ideas that are different.
'So much of what happens at the national level effects us locally,' Johnson said. 'There's the war, there's the jobs issue, the economy and energy. The war is wrong. There is nothing good that can be said of it. Look at all the lives that are being lost or forever ruined needlessly. We need to end it immediately.'
Johnson went on to say, 'We need real industry, but our health care system is killing industry. We need a sound energy policy. That's something we don't have now. There is no policy.'
One place Johnson said we should begin is education. 'If a person gets more education, they get a better job. If they get a better job, they'll make more money,' Johnson explained. 'They pay higher taxes, and that builds a new foundation for our tax base.'
Mortensen added, 'I was impressed when I met him. He really wants to do something.'
Mortensen said he was impressed with Johnson because he didn't need to get involved in politics. He did it because he believed one person could make a difference. The same could be said for Mortensen. He didn't have to get involved in Johnson's campaign. He did it because he wanted to make a difference.
'And that's the way you'll change the world,' Mortensen concluded, 'one person at a time.'