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Volunteer Spotlight: Ed Chaplin

Ed Chaplin, Represent Us volunteer
first in an occasional series

Medicine and politics may seem unlikely bedfellows, but to Ed Chaplin there’s a connection. Chaplin turned from medical practice to hospital operations to improve the way hospitals work. He volunteers with Represent San Diego to improve the way our democracy works.

Chaplin, a recent retiree, began working with Represent San Diego driven by a desire to reduce the polarization caused by the Democratic and Republican duopoly.

“What I took away after spending fifteen years trying to change the behavior of healthcare providers is that we respond primarily to the structure of the environment. The structure of our winner-take-all elections has fostered polarization,” Chaplin explained.

The structure of our winner-take-all elections has fostered polarization.

ED Chaplin

He cites the way party primaries tend to produce candidates at the ideological extremes on both the left and right of the political spectrum. An example is Mitt Romney, the moderate former governor of Massachusetts, Chaplin’s home state, who had to tack far to the right and disavow many of his previous positions to win the Republican presidential primary in 2012. This change alienated independent voters and may have cost him the election, Chaplin believes.

Following Donald Trump’s election, Ed Chaplin realized that merely being a “virtuous voter” was not enough and that he had to do more. After educating himself in the subjects of politics, sociology and law, Chaplin discovered RepresentUs and connected with Represent San Diego, interested in its reform-minded agenda.

Since becoming a volunteer in November of 2016, he has worked closely with Amy Tobia, one of the chapter’s current leaders, to spearhead Top4 Ranked Choice Voting in San Diego. “I took on the role of setting up meetings with City Council members. For all of the meetings with the City Council members, I was the lead.” 

When RepresentUs set up the More Choice coalition, he had a leading role in moderating its first public forum, and presented to the Rules Committee of the City Council as a chapter representative in the coalition. “For a long time, I really was out there as one public face of trying to drive this [ranked choice] initiative,” Chaplin said.

To keep people engaged, they’ve got to do something meaningful.

Ed Chaplin on his hope of new members stepping up and taking leadership positions

He now works with Tobia and other members of Represent Us on presentations to community clubs, and helps with outreach via online forums. He will continue serving on the steering committee of the Top4 Ranked Choice Voting Coalition and will be involved in lobbying the City Council for ranked choice voting and partial public election financing in the near future. 

“That’s going to be tough given the budgetary constraints, but you don’t know if you don’t try,” he said optimistically.  According to Chaplin, public financing might stand a good chance because it would lessen the need for candidates to raise campaign funds.

While Chaplin expects to continue his involvement with Represent San Diego, he hopes that new members will step up and take on leadership roles and responsibilities. “To keep people engaged, they’ve got to do something meaningful. I can take a step back and focus our coalition on getting initiatives on the ballot ”

Chaplin believes that the reform movement cropping up around the country has evolved to a point that it can make a real difference. “I think the time is right. I think the [reform] space over the last four years, probably because of Trump, has really matured.”

Tony Rocco

Tony G. Rocco is an activist with Represent San Diego and has a long history of supporting independent political organizations like, and the Independent Voter Project.

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