Now that the 2013 Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) is past, this might be a good time for Politisite readers to hear some of the more personal perspectives that were offered by some prominent CPAC attendees. Our third Politisite – ”Echoes of CPAC” interview will be with Marc Hyden, Advocacy Coordinator for Conservatives Concerned About the Death Penalty.
Marc Hyden is the Advocacy Coordinator for Conservatives Concerned About the Death Penalty and came from the National Rifle Association (NRA) where he served as a Campaign Field Representative in the State of Florida. Prior to his service with the NRA, he was the Campaign Manager of a Congressional race in Western North Carolina. Marc has additionally served as the Legislative Liaison/Public Affairs Specialist with the Georgia Emergency Management Agency/Homeland Security and as the Legislative Aide to the Georgia Senate President Pro Tempore.
KW: Why did you and Conservatives Concerned About The Death Penalty (CCATDP) decide to come to CPAC this year?
MH: Well, it’s a kind of a who’s-who of Conservative Leaders. And we’re a Conservative project, so this was the place to debut. We thought we’d be well-received, which we have so far and we’ve been able to reach a lot of great Conservatives.
KW: Is this an issue that presently isn’t at the forefront of the Conservative Movement, but could pick up steam and become more of an issue going forward?
MH: It’s an issue that is snow-balling. Every time I take to Conservatives, I’m surprised at how many are already concerned [about the death penalty]. They just didn’t know that there’s a group out there that was leading the charge against this. So, I believe that it’s going to snow-ball even more… even though it’s not [one of] the main issues. It’ll be there soon.
KW: How did you get started with “Conservatives Concerned About The Death Penalty”?
MH: I’ve been working in the political world for several years now, beginning as a Georgia State Senate staffer, then I ran multiple Conservative GOP campaigns, and finally I began working for the National Rifle Association. I, like many Conservatives, already had serious concerns about the death penalty. One day I ran across an ad looking for a Conservative to do Conservative outreach regarding the death penalty. I didn’t realize at the time that Conservatives are increasingly concerned about the death penalty. Needless to say, I was excited by the opportunity and applied for the position.
KW: Are you a Conservative yourself and if so, what made you become a Conservative and why are you one today?
MH: I am a Conservative and have been as long as I can remember. I’m a Conservative because I believe it’s a political philosophy, if applied correctly, that can put America on a sustainable path, respects the people’s rights and liberties, and reduces the size of government.
KW: Since you are a person who previously worked for the National Rifle Association, how did you go about changing gears/organizations while still working on issues of interest to Conservatives?
MH: While there are some very notable differences between Conservatives Concerned about the Death Penalty and the NRA, both organizations, and the related work, share a lot of similarities at their core. I am unapologetically supportive of our Second Amendment rights, and I was more than happy to help safeguard the rights our founding fathers set forth while I was with the NRA. When discussing Conservatives Concerned, I believe the founding fathers would reject a bloated and failed government program like the current death penalty system because it is wasteful, inefficient, dangerous, and gives the government too much power. There wasn’t a big change from the NRA to Conservatives Concerned. I’m working on Conservative issues that I believe are the best for America and the founding fathers would support.
KW: Was the Conservative Political Action Conference pretty much “glove-in-hand” with the idea of your group coming here?
MH: Listen… everybody at CPAC has been wonderful to work with. So, there was no issue getting in. A lot of Conservatives are concerned about it so they were more than happy to have us. And they’ve been very helpful along the way.
KW: What was the outcome of CCATDP being an Exhibitor at this year’s CPAC? Do you have an interesting story or anecdote you can share with our Politisite readers?
MH: I had incredibly lofty goals and expectations before we arrived at CPAC, but we exceeded them all. Hundreds of supporters came up to our booth to sign up to volunteer, and we were able to speak with numerous grasstops leaders. We heard one quote repeatedly from supporters who visited our booth: “Where have you been for so long. I thought I was the only Conservative who supports repealing the death penalty.” We witnessed another supporter stop in his tracks, drop his bags, and begin to repeatedly thank us for being at CPAC. We are seeing this all over the country. There is a hunger from Conservatives to repeal the death penalty and shatter the myth that Conservatives blindly support capital punishment.
KW: Why are you passionate about CCATDP and its mission?
My passion for CCATDP and its mission stems out of my desire to see true Conservative principles implemented in government – fiscal responsibility, pro-life policies, and limited government. The death penalty is inconsistent with each of these Conservative tenants. Our job is to make connections with Conservatives and to give a voice to their concerns and reservations about capital punishment. We are well on our way to doing that. We are letting everyone know they are not alone and many others, who share their values, are also taking another look at the death penalty and asking the same questions.
KW: Would you explain the connection between Equal Justice USA (EJUSA) and CCATDP for our readers?
MH: Equal Justice USA is a non-partisan nonprofit that seeks to create a criminal justice system that works for everyone. EJUSA has been working with Conservative leaders for years and helped create the first Conservatives Concerned about the Death Penalty group which was a Montana state coalition. Conservatives from around the country asked for a broader national group and EJUSA responded.
KW: I know the Innocence Project has been out there for a good long time… focusing on proving people are innocent of crimes (through DNA evidence review). How does your group fit in with what they are doing? Many people may be aware of what they’ve done publicity-wise?
MH: Well, we’re not in the business of DNA and what they (Innocence Project) are doing. We’re more out there try to show that there’s a concern among Conservatives. It’s just not a “Liberal” issue. It’s something that we need to legislatively take a look at repealing or at least doing something along those lines.
KW: Will your organization be campaigning against the Death Penalty in states that still have it?
MH: Well, this is a national group. So, deployments to states… I don’t know about that. We’re trying to focus nationally just now. We’ve got a lot of “grasstops” leaders that are trying to grow with us. Also, we’re trying to grow as a grassroots organization and taking it step-by-step.
KW: As far as with Death Penalty issue, generationally… does this a more popular issue with people under forty or fifty than it is with the older population or is it similar across-the-board?
MH: I’d say it is across-the-board. There is no age or demographic that is stronger in its opposition. Across-the-board, everybody is concerned about it for the most part.
KW: I live in an urban area and in urban communities, the Death Penalty is a really big concern because there seems to be an inequality of folks who… particularly at low-income levels, can’t hire their own attorneys and they get
stuck with court-appointed attorneys. A lot of people (in urban areas) feel that they don’t get an equal access to Justice in any case and in their minds, a lot of people are unjustly accused of a crime and then convicted. Will you be bringing your message into urban areas? And as far as Minority communities, do you
have any plans for reaching out to them? There may very well be a lot of support for what you are doing…
MH: Well, my main approach is reaching out to Conservatives. Regardless if they are in-city or out-of-city… or if they are Minority or Majority. It doesn’t matter to me. We’re trying to reach every person I can. If they’ll listen, I’ll talk to them.
Other “Echoes Of CPAC” Interviews on Politisite: