Musicians running for office are often driven by an issue that unexpectedly trades one area of self-promotion for another.
Sonny Bono's successful mayoral campaign was born out of the frustration of trying to obtain a restaurant permit in Palm Springs, California. For Marc Norman, it's Tempe's out of control construction. He feels it has made his hometown impossible to live, thrive, and drive in, so he's running for one of the three seats for Tempe City Council. The election takes place on March 10, 2020.
Cramming our discussion between several appearances at Democratic GAIN (Getting Arizona Involved in Neighborhoods), the Ghetto Cowgirl frontman opens with what could be a stump segue already.
"I'm a downtown guy," he says. "And I've been driving through a maze of construction and cones for five years now. The developers get pretty big deals, they get tax breaks, and they don't give back anything. There are 20 cranes in the air right now in Tempe, and it takes me 20 minutes to get from my house on Hardy to Apache Boulevard.
Another issue driving Norman, which ties in with gentrification, is the homeless problem in Tempe.
"I think we're leading the state in the homeless population," says Norman. "I'm working with a group called Cloud Covered Streets, trying to help the people that don't want to be homeless, give them a leg up. We're weeks away from finishing a trailer with washers and dryers, showers, a phone bank, and we have barbers willing to offer their services for people. You can't save everyone, but you have to start somewhere."
Being in the music business and a beloved entertainer in Tempe has prepared Norman for the cutthroat world of politics, sort of.
"Rejection is a part of the job, and I've been trained well. 'You're not getting this record deal. Awwww,'" he laughs. "I'm getting to see how the sausage is made. I thought the music industry was dog-eat-dog. It's got nothing on politics. The haters are coming out of the woodwork... No one is coming out after me yet, but I imagine someone is coming as their proxy. Everyone's got a past. But if you can just take the heat and put the work in, you'll do fine. Even if you don't win, your issues get out there. There will be a group of people behind you who will take up your issue."
Music has understandably taken a bit of a back seat. The hair of yesteryear has been tamped down. The few shows he has played lately either turn into fundraisers or campaign rallies.
"I have a fundraiser tomorrow, and I got Walt Richardson and Amos Cox playing, and I'll get up and do a
few," says Norman. "The weird thing about that is as a musician, I could never bring myself to do a GoFundMe thing to get the money to make an album because it always felt so gross. And funding an album is kind of a noble effort. But now as a politician, I've got to do fundraising, or I'm dead in the water."
"My years of being a shameless self-promoter are helping me at the moment, " he concludes, noting another key difference between performing and stumping. "As a musician, 95 percent of the people like me. As a politician, if you can get 60 percent, you're lucky."
Editor's note: A previous version of this story included a misheard quote. It has been removed.
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