The ad starts with an emotional punch: An image of Ady Barkan playing with his son and the words “this dying man could lose his health care” flashing across the screen.
“Four months after my wife gave birth to a beautiful baby boy named Carl, I was diagnosed with ALS,” says Barkan, his voice slowed and distorted by the muscle disorder. “I was shocked when Congress proposed a tax bill that would take away my health care.”
The minute-long ad, which will run on television and online ahead of the April 24 election for Arizona’s 8th Congressional District, is the first product of Barkan’s new Be a Hero Fund — an outgrowth of the Center for Popular Democracy’s CPD Action, the organization that Barkan has worked with as he’s protested Republican-backed tax and health-care bills.
This six-figure buy was designed to create a splash in a race that outside Democratic groups have largely ignored — but one where the Democratic nominee, Hiral Tipirneni, has campaigned heavily on expanding Medicare. Barkan, who garnered national attention last year by confronting Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) about the tax bill, said that the ad would be one of many around the country, fronting his own story to describe what would happen if lower tax revenue led to benefit cuts.
“I am losing my ability to speak, so I am asking Americans all around the country to be my voice,” said Barkan in a phone interview. “I want them to stand up and march and vote, because I am losing my ability to walk.”
After being startled by a short burst of popularity for the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act at the start of the year, Democrats and outside groups have grown more confident about attacking the Republicans’ signature law. On Tuesday afternoon, more than a dozen elected Democrats walked outside the Capitol to join the second “Tax March,” an event that began in 2017 to protest the president’s opacity about his tax returns and has become more of a protest of GOP tax policy.
Rep. Joseph Crowley (N.Y.), the fourth-ranking House Democrat, diverted from some recent Democratic rhetoric about the law — the party has been careful to say that breaks for “middle-class” voters will be safe — by pledging to “repeal and replace” the entire bill.
The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee also marked tax day with a Web video, taking an approach vastly different from Barkan’s — comedy. In the spot, wealthy men and women discuss how they spent their tax cut, while a maid reports that she didn’t get any money back.
Barkan’s “Be a Hero” campaign is designed to reach more people than the DCCC’s spot. He showed the finished versions of his first three ads to donors at this week’s Democracy Alliance conference in Atlanta — an “emotional” experience, he said, after which several audience members came up to him and discussed family members’ experience with ALS.
“People vote on emotion, narrative and anecdote, so we’re looking forward to humanize and personalize an esoteric issue,” said Barkan.