In 1992, when Collin Slattery was just two years old, his father was diagnosed with leukemia. His health insurance was provided through his high-level corporate job, so when he was let go, the Slattery family had to pay for all of his health bills out of pocket.
In 1995, they moved from Illinois to New Jersey, one of the few states at the time that required providers to offer healthcare to people with pre-existing conditions. Collin’s father died in 1999, leaving 10-year-old Collin and his family bankrupt from the millions of dollars they had to pay out-of-pocket on healthcare.
Collin, along with his mother and two sisters, moved to New York City in 2003 so that Collin could attend a good high school. But though he attended Stuyvesant, one of the best STEM schools in the country, his life was far from good. He had a rocky relationship with his mother, who was more interested in how much money he won playing poker in an underground park than how he was doing in school.
Collin graduated in 2007, but was unable to afford college. His mother was evicted from her apartment in 2008, leaving Collin on the edge of homelessness.
For over a year, Collin had only one meal a day. He walked 9.2 miles to get to his minimum wage retail job. He was oftentimes single days from eviction. Though he is over six feet tall, he was only 150 pounds.
Then, in early 2009, he came across an incredible opportunity. He met a young businessman who created his own hedge fund, Elea Capital Management, in his early 20’s. The young businessman offered Collin a six figure per year job that could springboard Collin’s career and develop into a multimillion dollar per year job. The young businessman’s name was Martin Shkreli.
Martin Shkreli, now commonly referred to as “pharma bro,” earned the hatred of people around the world in 2015 for hiking the price of Daraprim, a medication used to treat people with AIDS, by 5000%, making it unaffordable to many who desperately needed it. Shkreli had taken similar action before, hiking the price of Thiola, a drug used to treat the rare disease cystinuria, by 2000%.
“It’s a great business decision that also benefits all of our stakeholders,” Shkreli explained on Twitter.
Later that year, Shkreli was arrested by the FBI for securities fraud. He ended up with a congressional hearing in which he refused to answer any questions beyond what his name was.
Though Collin could not have possibly known in early 2009 that Shkreli would hike the prices of essential drugs by thousands for his own benefit alone, Collin could tell that Shkreli was running a fraud. “I was faced with this moral dilemma,” Collin told me. “I was impoverished. I was so poor I can’t even afford to eat.”
But despite the opportunity to pull himself out of poverty, Collin declined Shkreli’s offer. Instead, Collin reported Shkreli to the SEC for running a fraud.
Seven months later, on December 23, 2009, Collin spent his last $134 to start a web hosting company. He named it Taikun. It became a side project after Collin acquired a job in March 2010, but in 2014, Collin began running Taikun full-time as a digital marketing agency. Taikun helps small- and mid-size businesses grow on the web. He currently isn’t making as much as he’d like, bit he can now afford healthcare, rent, three meals a day, and a MetroCard.
“I haven’t taken any money from anyone, I haven’t taken any venture capital. Just bootstrappin’ my way up.”
After the election, Collin wanted to use his tech skills to take action. He started working to create a millennial, digital-based Super PAC that would engage millennials and help encourage them to run for office. He specifically wanted to drive nerds into politics. “The nerdier you are, the more likely you are to accept reality and facts,” he said. “So why don’t we have nerds in charge for a while?”
But then he had a thought. “Why don’t I just run myself?”
He was initially cautious, worried that people would find embarrassing pictures of him online that would be disqualifying in the eyes of voters. But that concern faded quickly. “Trump is a self-professed serial sexual predator. If that’s not disqualifying, literally nothing in my closet is even close to that.”
“Donald Trump should be in prison. I just got drunk and fell into a wall.”
Collin immediately knew that if he was going to run, he’d have to run for mayor of New York City. “There’s so much you can do as mayor to help people,” he said. “You can be this beacon of progressivism and good governance for the country.”
Initially, he thought about “doing a Mayor Bloomberg” – making money in the private sector, then going into politics. But with Donald Trump in the Oval Office, this is urgent.
Unfortunately, Collin has had some difficulty being taken seriously as a 28-year-old outsider to the political scene. “They think it’s a publicity stunt.” But that couldn’t be further from the truth, Collin says.
“I don’t want to be a career politician. I want to improve the lives of my constituents. I’m not trying to be governor. I’m not trying to be president. I’ve always wanted to run for mayor of New York.”
Good intentions don’t get you on the ballot, though. What does? 7,500 signatures, technically. But according to Collin, that’s not really the case. “You can’t just collect 7,500. You need more like 20,000. The establishment, the big money, they’ll try to declare fraud.”
Collin hopes that he can make up for the lack of establishment support by capturing the grassroots progressive enthusiasm that has driven the campaigns of Jon Ossoff in Georgia and Rob Quist in Montana. “There’s no enthusiasm for Mayor de Blasio,” he said. “Nobody wants a 60-year-old white guy who just barely avoided federal corruption charges.”
Collin believes that mobilizing millennials in particular will give him a good shot of winning the Democratic primary, which many currently see as a lock for Bill de Blasio. “In 2013, de Blasio got 282,000 votes, and there are 1.9 million millennials in NYC.”
Collin’s “unabashedly progressive” platform is definitely one that could attract millennials. His slogan is “A New York for All New Yorkers,” and his campaign is focused on making the city more affordable for low-income New Yorkers. He took his experiences from his time in poverty to craft policies and a budget that will take care of those who most need help. He wants to make housing and transit specifically more affordable. As someone who had to walk 100 blocks to work because he couldn’t afford to ride the subway, this stuff is close to his heart.
He wants to give low-income New Yorkers half-fare MetroCards, as well as expand to Student MetroCard program to all NYC public schools. He also wants to decriminalize fare evasion, the most common reason for arrest in the city. NYPD data indicates that 90,000 people per year are stopped by the police for jumping the turnstile, 92% being people of color. “The city is just criminalizing people for being poor,” Collin said. “African-American New Yorkers are being rushed off to prison just because they couldn’t pay $2.75.”
Collin suggested that New York should stop paying to keep Donald Trump safe when Trump has the money to do so himself, and instead redirect the taxpayer money that’s currently being wasted to helping low-income New Yorkers. And ultimately, that’s what matters to him the most: helping the people of his city.
“Winning is not the most important thing. The most important thing is the issues I believe in getting coverage.”