SENIOR ONLINE REPORTER
Omaha Mayoral candidate Mark Gudgel sat down with the Gateway staff to address issues and concerns related to popular Twitch streamer and liberal advocate, Steven Bonnell II – known as ‘Destiny.’ After working with the streamer on his campaign, Gudgel faced many questions from locals regarding Bonnell’s infamous comments on the Black Lives Matter movement and towards a sexual assault survivor.
“People had described Mr. Bonnell to me, using words like ‘controversial’ and ‘edgy,’” Gudgel said, reflecting on the situation. “I admit that I didn’t think much of this, that I didn’t do my homework, and I’m sorry for that. When his remarks came to light, we cut all ties with Mr. Bonnell and the OmniLiberal Movement”
Gudgel was impressed by the work of the Omniliberal movement and the results of their effort in the U.S. Georgia Senate runoff election, not aware of some of the controversies that came to light.
“I failed to vet Mr. Bonnell properly as a result,” Gudgel said. “Had I done so; I would not have accepted his aid to my campaign.”
The situation and the backlash alone also affected Gudgel mentally and emotionally to where he withdrew from social media to recuperate.
“When all this went down, there was a period where I couldn’t eat, could barely sleep. I looked over my shoulder a lot. My wife got tension headaches—there was nothing I could do to shelter my family from it. It was awful,” Gudgel said. “At the end of the day, because of something one of my donors said, and because I’m a public figure, an awful lot of people felt like they could say anything and everything they wanted to me.”
However, the experience hasn’t changed Gudgel’s thoughts on utilizing online platforms for effective campaign strategies, said that the way the situation occurred isn’t a condemnation of the platform and that it can benefit many candidates in the future.
“AOC uses Twitch, and Ted Cruz, to my knowledge, does not. AOC is a force for good in the world, even if I don’t agree with her on everything, while Ted Cruz is, you know, Ted Cruz. I encourage candidates to use Twitch in the future, though they’ll want to find someone other than me to tell them how,” Gudgel said.
Although Gudgel planned for his campaign to be unimpeachable, focusing on policies like student debt, bettering sustainable services, and fighting climate change, he said that there are mistakes that are made on his part that he would like to reflect and correct in the future.
“At the end of the campaign, we can all look ourselves in the mirror with no trouble, knowing that we were always trying to do the right thing, and that we always took the high road,” Gudgel said. “Politics don’t have to be filthy and dishonest and nasty—filthy, dishonest, nasty people make them that way.”
Moving forward from the situation, Gudgel said he wanted to focus on running his campaign as a grassroots, policy-focused campaign where he connects with voters and spreads the message though other media channels.
“We have a number of exciting policies to rollout in the coming weeks, including a policy to help local businesses, especially those affected by the pandemic, and a policy for reforming civilian police and fire oversight.” Gudgel said. “Our policies addressing housing, fighting homelessness, and improving public transportation are all on the way as well.”
Gudgel’s advice to future candidates is to acknowledge mistakes made and to rise above “the ugly side of politics.”
“Be inimitable, be original, and be willing to acknowledge your mistakes,” Gudgel said. “In the end, win or lose, I’ll never have any trouble looking myself in the mirror because I know at the end of each day that I always try to do the right thing.”
Gudgel also encourages students to vote and tell others to do the same. He said the election is less about him and more about serving the people of Omaha.
“If my vision for the future is what the people of Omaha want, they can choose that on the ballot. If not, well, I love being an English teacher. Ultimately, I believe in democracy, and I trust the voters,” Gudgel said.