Kevin Spidel – PDA Memorial Tribute

By Bryan Buchan – Progressive Democrats of America


Kevin Spidel, a life long political and community organizer and social activist, a former Campaign Director for Amnesty International, former National Field Director for Kucinich for President, and co-founder and former National Deputy Director of Progressive Democrats of America has passed away.

Kevin Spidel was a young passionate progressive activist with a kind gentle heart.  He was often behind the scenes in progressive politics, building movements, coaching activists and doing the heavy lifting of uniting progressives and building coalitions to sustain and grow the PDA Inside/Outside strategy, our moniker and approach to political organizing within PDA.

Kevin began his political career working field operations for Amnesty International in 1995, organizing  and training Arizona and southern California AIUSA chapters on and off college campuses.  In the late 1990s till the early 2000s Kevin was entrenched in local Arizona races and social justice issues.  It was during this time be began organizing for Dennis Kucinich’s presidential run.  He had helped build a large coalition of progressive activists in Arizona, all supporting Dennis’ campaign.  His effective organizing propelled him to become the National Field Director for Dennis Kucinich’s campaign, in 2003-2004. 

Returning home to Phoenix in 2004, he harnessed the momentum of many disenfranchised activists from the Kucinich, Dean, Sharpton and Mosley-Brown campaigns.  Together, Kevin with his first wife, Michele White, continued to build upon this coalition of progressives, and created “Progressive Vote”.  Soon after, Kevin and Michele partnered with the legendary progressive champion, Tim Carpenter, and with the help of many of our PDA founding members, created the PDA Inside/Outside strategy.  This strategy formally united the “street-heat” of Progressive Vote activists with progressive beltway activists and lobbyists that birthed “Progressive Democrats of America”. 

In 2006 Kevin left PDA to return to Amnesty International, became a campaign director focused on their global “Denounce Torture” and national “American I Believe In” campaigns.  Kevin later left politics and in 2007 began a rewarding career in digital marketing.  As always, Kevin continued his passioned focus for coaching others, and lifting them up, this time to get a start in this very new (at the time) exciting field.  During this time he was the founding Director for Product Development and & Marketing for Gannett Local and Director of Social Marketing and Co-Founder and Director of Agency Services for Voice Media Group in Phoenix Arizona.

Kevin’s personality, passion, and creativity however is best conveyed by one of his good friends, and PDA’s friend, William Rivers Pitt, from TruthOut.  Will met and worked alongside of Kevin during the transition, between the end of Kucinich’s presidential campaign, and the birth of PDA.  Will offered to write a short but poignant tribute that best captures who Kevin was, beyond his resume and achievements.  Below is that tribute from Will.  If you would like to offer your own memory and tribute to Kevin, please do so by commenting below.  RIP Brother Spidel.

– Bryan Buchan

I met Kevin in a red Dennis Kucinich campaign van that crisscrossed the corn fields and caucus sites of Iowa. After I joined the campaign, he taught me about what is required in constructing an effective grass-roots movement. It is no overstatement to say that at least some of the energy being enjoyed today by the Bernie Sanders campaign can be traced back to that van, that campaign, and to Kevin. The organization he helped found with that energy, Progressive Democrats of America, was another beneficiary of that energy, and is to this day.

Kevin and I crossed paths a wonderful number of times after that, most comically in California. We stayed overnight with activist friends, and bedded down in the tiny guest house in back of the main house. Those who know Kevin will understand when I say his snoring was the equivalent of an earthquake attempting to copulate with one of those machines they use to mix cans of paint (bless you, brother, but it’s true). I basically had to break into the main house to find a couch to crash on, else I would have been sleeping in the yard.

On that trip, Kevin schooled me on the deep intricacies and complications involved in establishing a humane and effective immigration policy. He laid out details and nuances that I had never considered, and which plague the immigration debate to this day. Kevin’s intellect could bend the light. I was always learning from him, and was always a better person when we parted.

The geographical distance between us did not permit as much time together as I would have liked, but we were always in touch … and I was always comforted in the knowledge that, whatever was happening in the world, Kevin was out there working to make it better for us all in whatever way he could within reach of his arm. Our motto together was “Kill the Buddha”. The meaning for us was hard-earned simplicity: Leaders are good, and sometimes great, but it is the street heat that makes change happen. You are the one you’ve been waiting for, and need no sage to point the way. Kevin lived that every day. It is a formidable, worthy legacy we must all strive to achieve. We are lesser without him.

-William Rivers Pitt

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