Diane Neal
Actress and now congressional candidate, Diane Neal (Image via Washington Examiner)

From the Red Carpet to Capitol Hill

A look into how celebrities — by entering the political realm — affect the vote after actress Diane Neal announces she’s making a congressional run.

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Diane Neal
Actress and now congressional candidate, Diane Neal (Image via Washington Examiner)

A look into how celebrities — by entering the political realm — affect the vote after actress Diane Neal announces she’s making a congressional run.

Shirley Temple. Gary Coleman. Arnold Schwarzenegger. Ronald Reagan.

All of these celebrities have each stuck a foot into the political door, with some successes and some publicity gags. Now it’s time to add actress Diane Neal to the list of celebrities who have made the switch from rehearsing lines to endorsing a political agenda.

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Known for her time spent in the courtroom making objections as Assistant District Attorney Casey Novak on “Law and Order: SVU,” Neal has announced her run for New York State Congress. Her competition would be Rep. Faso, who has been in the political realm since the late 1980s, alongside the ballot of six other Democratic candidates. Faso was sworn into Congress for the 19th Congressional District Jan. 2017, after serving years in the House of Representatives.

The 19th District in New York State is primarily a Republican-based district that comprises the Hudson Valley and the Catskills. The district includes the Columbia, Delaware, Greene, Otsego, Schoharie, Sullivan and Ulster Counties, as well as some parts of other counties. In the last couple of elections, the Republican candidates have been victorious and most of the winning candidates have also been locals who have had a strong foundation embedded in the area.

Neal has declared her running for office and has claimed that she will be running on the Independent slate, hoping to take out the incumbent in the next general election this coming November. Although Neal has not publicized a full political agenda in the media, she has expressed her views and thoughts on her Twitter and eventually her campaign Twitter handle.

Looking at her tweets, her main focus is to bring her district together while fighting for what she believes in and she has even started a local campaign and sat in on a meeting for her district. Scrolling through her timeline on Twitter, her interactions with followers and people who oppose her running are all good-natured and polite.

There is, though, a split in public opinion about her decision to run for office. Some have opposed her announcement completely, focusing on her celebrity status and supposed “lack of knowledge” in politics.

When Neal first declared her run for office, she tweeted that she had no party affiliation. Neal responded as to why she then announced being on the Independent ticket, which was revealed in an article from the Washington Beacon, by saying she “can truly serve as a representative of the people [by running as an Independent].”

Generally, an Independent can have beliefs that do not fall into the partisan realm. Neal has claimed that despite her personal affiliation as a Democrat, her views tend to be a little more in the middle.

Many concerned congressional voters are worried that, with Neal’s declaration as being an Independent, Faso’s re-election campaign could receive a boost. An independent could sway popularity so much that the vote can be split between two parties, giving someone who might not have all the qualifications the votes needed to secure the popular vote.

Democrats could view this as a failure to take down Faso, but it also raises general concerns about celebrities lifting up the velvet ropes and walking off sets to speak at podiums about concerns and decisions for the government. In one particular tweet, one voter begrudgingly asked who from the Republican Party paid for Neal to run for congress. Neal’s response to the declarative tweet was handled in a calm matter:

Celebrities crossing over into politics is not something new. The entertainment industry itself has provided opportunities for their political moxie to be displayed and advocated by others. Most times, actors and actresses interject their political viewpoints into social media or in public gatherings, like award shows.

Many celebs have put their time and energy into politics and policies, and the few that go the extra step and declare a run for office are often met with split public opinion about their decision to run. The need for a qualified candidate is a major concern for all voters since skills like experience, quality and the capability to understand politics are critical.

Though it is debated time after time, celebrities have the right to run for office — as does anyone who possesses the qualifications to run for any political office. Their success is determined by the opinions of others, who see them crossing into an unexpected environment and believe they may not have the best interest of the people in mind. It has even been debated that there are instances where celebrities do not understand the idea of how to split themselves between being the performer and the politician, with some people feeling that a performer cannot distinctively understand the two as separate identities.

A celebrity’s popularity could also cause issues in the voting system, negatively affecting voters. Voters who might not consistently vote in elections or know much about politics could vote for the celebrity purely because of their name, lacking any real understanding of politics or the candidate’s platform. In any instance, fame often dominates over politics and the purposes of the voting system and political campaigns are flattened.

Despite these issues, many celebrities who are advocates and fully understand and explain their policies can be successful to a degree. Ronald Regan, for instance, did quite well in politics, rising from a Governor to the President after his acting career.

Neal’s political platform has geared its focus towards the citizens and voters within the district and her ideas and policies are so popular that they can also found in other congressional leaders’ agendas and in the thoughts of citizens outside the district, as well. Ultimately, though, her campaign is focusing on the locals of District 19, concentrating on single-payer health care, strong environmental regulations and gun control.

On her Crowdpac page, Neal also advocates for unity and believes that every citizen can achieve the American Dream by coming together. Her ideas and policies make for a good foundation to her homegrown, common-sense campaign. However, politics and political agendas are not common sense: the most simplistic stances of supporting or opposing issues need to be extensively researched.

Slander has not stopped Neal from launching her campaign and promoting her slogan of “Epiphany and Reason” after posting her fundraiser links online. The slogan “Epiphany and Reason” makes Neal’s focus on the people prominent by showing her reasonable and understanding nature, right alongside her argument. So far, her fundraising has started small, but many hopefuls are positively endorsing her.

Neal has publically addressed her concerns, responded to praise and questions about her reasons for running on her Twitter. Her use of social media might be the most beneficial tool for getting her platform to reach larger audiences.

As for the election, the fact that Neal understands the people’s grievances as a resident of New York herself might push her to succeed in the primaries, which will be held in the 19th Congressional District in New York in mid-June. If she succeeds, Diane Neal’s name will be carried to the polls in November.

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Gillian Farnan

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