In 2008, Jackie Rock faced a crisis: her family home was illegally repossessed by Wells Fargo. Many Americans went through the same struggle during the housing crisis, but for Jackie, that was just the beginning. She explained, “It shattered my life apart. Divorce followed and single motherhood to an 8-year-old boy was surreal. All in 2009. Still thinking we were failures because of the [bank’s] warfare on our psyche.”
But while the government bailed out Wells Fargo and other “too big to fail” banks, Jackie was left on her own. That’s why, when Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders talked about the banks and criticized them during his run for President in 2016, Jackie took an interest. She had always been interested in politics, but hearing Sen. Sanders speak transformed her interest into involvement.
Never heard of Sanders before his announcement to run. Was JUST gonna play along and vote HRC as a loyalist. I debated with my husband that Bernie had no impact for lack of name recognition until I watched his address at Liberty University. That’s all it took. He spoke my mind and heart. I was touched and began to help. That made life easy for my husband who has followed Bernie for his entire career.
So began Jackie’s political involvement as a Bernie Sanders volunteer and eventual elected national delegate representing District 6 of Florida (Saint Augustine). Jackie was elected a national delegate due to her sheer commitment and involvement in the campaign. Making a living at the time as an artist, she turned her studio into a grassroots campaign office used for organizational meetings and phone banking.
Life Beyond Bernie
Upon her return, Jackie was approached and pushed to run for NE Florida Anastasia Mosquito Control Seat 3 since the incumbent had vacated the position. Though the position itself was ‘nonpartisan,’ the person she was running against, Peter Royal, was a Republican Precinct Committeeman and on the Republican Executive Board. Jackie won in her race in a predominantly red district because, as she claims, “the republicans voted in a Bernie supporter.” Her main role in this position, as she puts it, is to “protect our taxpayers from vector-borne diseases.” As such, Jackie will be on the front lines in the fight against Zika, a disease that has been linked to microcephaly in infants. Southern states such as Florida and Texas have already had small outbreaks of Zika.
During her campaign, she traveled in Europe and met Syrian refugees who told her about their time as first responders to an outbreak of malaria caused by the Tiger Mosquito. These experiences inspired her and gave her a new perspective on her role in politics.
To put Jackie’s election in perspective, and the political climate she was in, take note that she received over 10,000 more votes than the Democratic nominee for president, Hillary Clinton.
Jackie adds, “yes, the republicans voted in a Bernie supporter, and that’s the reason I won. Bernie could have won.”
#DemExit or #DemEnter?
In her newfound political life, Jackie says, “the hardest part of being a new leader in public eye as a progressive is dealing with the Clinton Dems who act as if this was all a shock and now they want to listen to us. Now they believe our words. Handling them with compassion has taken a great level of restraint.”
Moving forward from this election, Jackie is considering running for city commissioner and hopes to be a public servant at the congressional level someday, although she doesn’t know whether she will continue to be with the Democrats or work outside of the party. After all, the Democrats in the state of Florida just elected Stephen Bittel to be state chair to the chagrin of many Berniecrats and progressives throughout the state. Speaking about Bittel’s election, Jackie says, “Looks Like I’ve had enough of trying to save the Florida Dems. I was DemEnter.”
But, Jackie speaks warmly about the progressives she’s met in Florida:
Bruce Jacobs and all the delegates who fight by infiltrating are my new political family since we met at the Orlando state convention. The support we give each other is part of why the establishment Dems should be alert. We are not playing any games. We will make their money worthless as we continue to educate people in our districts. Not “indoctrination” like some critics might pull. A new era is here and we are energetic with nothing to lose.
Jackie’s personal goal is to be a role model and bring people into the political process, as she explains:
Activism that organizes well and keeps growing so we have more 19 to 45 years olds taking the plunge into public service. As a 43 year old my goal is to be approached by the younger ages who will build grassroots support into a viable party. I’ll be ready for anything if I’m asked to continue in public service. Hopefully a chance to represent at a congressional if I’m worthy. Need to begin first. Wish me luck.
Beyond just another feel-good Berniecrat story, Jackie’s story is a good example of how successful progressives can be on the local level if they put in the time, energy, and commitment. Organizations like Brand New Congress, with their goal of running over 400 candidates across the country, can achieve success if we have the people willing to run for positions.