Mark Meuser is not loving life on a recent morning. He is sitting on the side of the road with a flat tire probably rethinking the whole idea of bicycling 5,000 miles while campaigning for California Secretary of State.
After all, he did receive more than 2 million votes in the primary election, which for a Republican candidate in California is pretty good these days. Double that and you are in business.
But the support team in the campaign bus is more than an hour and a half behind and the cool of the morning is rapidly dissipating. This is not the Tour de France. When the bus finally does arrive and his tire patched, Meuser sets out only to have the same thing happen all over again.
“It’s part of the adventure. You have to adapt to situations,” he recalls laughing while describing one of the lowlights of his attempt to bike in all 58 counties statewide in just 46 days. That includes Death Valley later this month when he plans to start at midnight.
About 20 people showed for Meuser’s July 17 campaign stop in Montague.
His sojourn ends in Huntington Beach on Aug. 23, more than two months after starting out from Martinez. He faces incumbent Alex Padilla in the general election on Nov. 6. Most polls show Padilla with a sizable lead.
Meuser, 43, is campaigning on a platform of what he sees as rampant fraud in the statewide voting system. The Secretary of State is responsible for ensuring the integrity of elections. Meuser claims there are 11 counties statewide with over 100 percent voter registration.
“When you have over a million people in L.A. County who are registered to vote that are not eligible to vote you have a problem,” he said. “We have a lot we can do to improve the integrity of the elections in California.”
In addition to being the state’s chief election officer, the Secretary of State is also in charge of business entity formation, a process that can take up to three weeks and is something Meuser wants to streamline. In some states business registration can be done online and completed in a day.
Meuser started his first business at the age of 12, picking cherries in the morning and then selling them at a roadside stand that same afternoon. He later ran a pizza restaurant in Idaho and then began studying law. He graduated with honors from Oak Brook College of Law.
Meuser said he became interested in politics after specializing in elections law. In 2008 he ran as the Republican candidate for state Senate in District 7 in Concord. He was soundly beaten by Mark DeSaulnier in the general election.
“I am an attorney who is interested in politics,” he said. “Over the last couple of years my practice has really changed from a civil attorney to an elections law attorney.”
He said he decided to run for a statewide office after not seeing anybody he could support. Meuser said he admires politicians on both side of the aisle.
“I like politicians who stand up and fight. I like Ted Cruz and Rand Paul on the right, who are out there vocal about their issues, fighting for their issues,” he said. “And while I don’t agree necessarily with their policies I like Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren. They are standing up and becoming national figures fighting for what they believe.”
For Meuser, being vocal about an issue and standing up for what he believes centers on voter fraud. It is an issue that parallels advances in technology. Voting machines have shown they can be hacked with a simple wi-fi link, he said.
“The fact that the vulnerability is in the system means that there is no one who can trust the integrity of the ballot at the voting machine,” he said. “There are some major concerns. It doesn’t matter whether you are a Republican or a Democrat.”
Meuser said he finds inspiration in many forms. He has read approximately 30 books so far this year, many of them non-fiction about U.S. history. The latest is a biography of Davey Crockett written in 1758.
“I always loved reading stories about people who did great things,” he said. “Nobody is perfect but the trials people went through… it really helps put perspective on life.”
For now, though it is back on one of two road bikes he travels with and on from Siskiyou to another county to explore and hold a rally.
“One person at a time. As I was coming into Burney at the top of the hill a PG&E worker stopped and pulled out a cold water and handed it to me,” Meuser said. “I let him know why we need to hire a new Secretary of State.”