“JMike” is not your average Santa Barbara mayoral candidate.
Justin “JMike!” Michael is a 29-year-old musician with no prior political experience and a criminal record. He’s not affiliated with any political party and is the son of infamous Scientology minister and Ponzi schemer Reed Slatkin. He was recently a guest on Oprah.
And this November, he wants your vote.
Michael is not running a traditional campaign, but he says he takes the race very seriously. Although he faces seasoned Santa Barbara politicos – city council members Helene Schneider and Iya Falcone have thrown their hats in the ring – Michael is confident that he will “landslide this election like never before.”
However, Michael, who prefers to go by JMike!, does not have the spotless background that most politicians work for.
He was arrested in September 2007 for punching and strangling the woman with whom he was then living and pled guilty to two misdemeanor counts of domestic violence. He was sentenced to 75 days in County Jail and house arrest, in addition to three years of probation and anger management classes.
His father, who stole nearly $600 million from investors, was arrested in 2001 and sentenced to 14 years in prison. At the time of his arrest, his Ponzi scheme was one of the largest ever discovered in the United States.
In spite of his critics, Michael maintains that his past experiences make him a stronger candidate for mayor.
“For a 29-year-ol], I’ve overcome near impossible challenges that make me uniquely equipped to run,” Michael said. “Being raided by the FBI, watching my father incarcerated – it made me make a silent vow to operate with a unique level of business integrity.”
On March 19, on the Oprah Show, Michael discussed his personal experience with domestic violence, and said that he has learned from his past transgressions.
“I am a person,” he said on the show. “I have made mistakes. I learned my lessons. I’m going to save the world so that others don’t make the same mistakes.”
Michael claims he has integrated these lessons into his campaign. When asked about his platform, “JMike!” responded: “… Here are the words: Trust. Integrity.”
Michael, who also refers to himself as “JBama” on his website, is running on a platform that includes addressing the revival of public education, balancing the budget, job creation and the encouragement of local businesses. Most of his goals, he said, were the result of extensive interviews with locals.
“I spend half of every day interviewing people through the networks like Facebook and on the street,” Michael said. “I ask them to tell me their issues, how I could help them. The people are writing my platform.”
Despite being the self-proclaimed underdog, Michaels remains optimistic about his candidacy and said he believes he can unite the community by representing a range of demographics.
“I represent a connection between the millenials and the baby booms,” Michael said. “I am the person to bridge the gap of the two generations that live and work in this town.”
As an avid blogger, Michael prides himself on his public availability through social networks such as Facebook, Myspace, Twitter, AIM and Gmail chat. He claims that his use of technology will rally the people behind him in time for the November election.
Michael also encouraged student participation in the election, stressing the impact the race will have on the future.
“The students need to all vote for or against me [and] just make a great decision based on their beliefs,” said Michael. “It’s not a vote, it’s the future of this city and the world.”