Ben Savage is betting big this time.
The “Boy Meets World” star and former West Hollywood City Council candidate has put nearly $1 million of his personal funds on the line in the scramble for Rep. Adam Schiff’s soon-to-be-vacant seat in Congress. He’s now the top fundraiser out of 20 candidates vying for the position next year.
“I think this district is worthy of investment,” Savage told WEHOonline.com in a recent exclusive interview.
“I’m all about bringing people together and I’m more than happy to fund myself to accomplish what I think needs to be done for the community. I see the people running and what’s going on in the United States Congress — we are at a standstill and we’re not getting things done for the American people. Unless we get some new leadership and more solution-oriented candidates, I think we’re going to continue down this road. People are divided, people are fighting, people are angry, and I don’t think we’re getting the representation we deserve.”
Savage may lead the pack in terms of campaign funds, but his biggest rivals — including a state senator, the former L.A. city attorney, a state assemblywoman — aren’t far behind. They also have something he largely lacks: support of the establishment.
He’s a political outsider — but that’s what make him ideal for the job, he believes.
“I think it’s a great thing to not have to answer to special interests and to be responsible to nobody but the voters,” he said “The candidates I’m seeing are career politicians who’ve been in office for a long time. And personally, I always scratch my head because I wonder why they wouldn’t want to try someone new and someone with new ideas and new voice and new energy. It’s just ironic to me that people would want to go back to the same faces and voices that really are largely responsible for a lot of the problems that our community is experiencing.”
Savage, now in his early ’40s, rose to fame as star of the classic sitcom playing title character Cory Matthews, whose boyish charm and sunny disposition he shares in real life. Savage later studied political science at Stanford and worked in Sen. Arlen Specter’s office.
“I’ve lived in West Hollywood for half my life at this point and have been working in West Hollywood since I was a kid,” he said. “I was doing plays as a teenager at the Lee Strasberg Institute on Santa Monica and Hayward. During breaks, I would go sit at the French Market Cafe and eat lunch.”
As a longtime resident, he says he’s in tune with the unique, sometimes conflicting problems facing WeHo and the district.
“We have homelessness, housing, and crime problems in our community,” he said. “Our seniors don’t feel safe. My neighbors don’t feel safe. I don’t know what to tell them, especially considering last year when they were trimming the sheriff’s budget. Many of our neighbors are elderly or disabled and don’t feel safe. It’s not wrong to empathize with them. Unfortunately, the voices of the elderly, seniors, and people with disabilities get lost in the larger cultural debate about policing.”
He’s measured on his support of recent increases in the minimum wage.
“I think that West Hollywood workers deserve to be paid very highly,” he said. “We’re asking a lot of these people to travel across the city, particularly members of our sheriff’s department who have to drive here from Santa Clarita. It’s obviously not going to go backwards. Do I think it should go to $30? No, but I believe that the workers who we ask to come to West Hollywood should be paid handsomely for traveling every day.”
Savage says he has seen the struggles of local businesses and remembers the hit they took during COVID.
“I was here in 2020 and I was right down the street from you guys,” he said. “My heart broke for all the small businesses and independent businesses in West Hollywood that were suffering due to a lot of regulations and rules that I felt were just not fair. I have a lot of sympathy for folks, particularly in West Hollywood, that have to deal with severe business regulations that are hamstringing them.”
He’s pitching himself as a uniter, and first-hand experiences on the campaign trail have shown him that’s what the district is looking for.
“There are a lot of similar concerns between West Hollywood and Glendale and Burbank,” he said. “And then, there are some serious differences.”
The contentious school board meetings in Glendale pitting parents against faculty over what’s taught to their children, which Savage has been attending.
“There’s unfortunately a divide between the parents and their view of the curriculum. And then there’s a divide with the school boards and their view of the curriculum. For me, it’s about changing the tone. I don’t like sitting in a school board meeting and seeing people demonize the school board, but I also don’t think the parents should be demonized by the media.”
Savage has aligned himself and his campaign with the Problem Solvers’ Caucus, the bipartisan group in Congress meant to foster better relations between Republicans and Democrats.
“I do think the Democrats will take (back) the House, and I’m interested in working with anyone from across the aisle to get things done,” he says. “I’ve met with Congressmembers like Josh Gottheimer, Wiley Nickel, and Brad Schneider from all across the country. These are guys I’ve spoken to who are actually interested in solving problems. They’re not interested in sound bites or attacks, but in working together and bringing people together.”
Savage is a big union supporter who values the private sector.
“I’ve worked my entire life,” he said. “I’ve been a union member since 1987. I value what unions do for their members. I’ve been working in the private sector in the NFC industry since I was five and have experience working with diverse groups of people.
He firmly stands behind Israel in its war against Hamas and rejects the notion of a ceasefire.
“The surge in anti-Semitism in the past couple of weeks is heartbreaking, especially for the Jewish community, which is about love and uniting people,” he said. “On a positive note, I’ve never seen the Jewish community as united as it is now. Everyone wants to address the latent anti-Semitism and come up with a hopeful solution for Israel. As it stands, Hamas has taken over Palestine and until Hamas is gone, I don’t think there will be peace in the region. I don’t support calls for a ceasefire until the threat is eliminated.”
Savage sees a larger battle playing out across the world on social media.
“There is an explosion of bots, and a lot of what’s going on in the Middle East is taking place online. So, in addition to the military conflict, there’s a digital war going on. We’re seeing bad actors hire digital companies and flood the zone with anti-Semitic comments and anti-Israel comments on social media. I’ve seen it. I mean, I tweeted something that wasn’t that heated or extraordinary, and within minutes, we got hundreds and hundreds of messages, not just attacking Israel but wishing death upon my family. But the irony is, you go back the next day and a lot of those accounts aren’t even active anymore. So, there is some sort of digital war that’s going on that’s well beyond the COVID stuff and what was going on with pharmaceuticals. This is a global thing.
The misinformation war harkens back to Rep. Schiff, who was accused of misleading the American public over Donald Trump campaign’s ties to Russia and subverting the First Amendment by coercing Twitter and other social media platforms to censor or delete public posts. Savage is hesitant to call for a continuation of such practices.
“I’m not sure if I’m in favor of the government calling up social media companies and dictating the content that’s allowed to appear on the platform,’ he said. “However, I do think that something needs to be done to ensure that there’s some level of honest information taking place online.”
Savage is determined to rise above the politics and in keep his focus on this issues. If elected, he knows what he wants to work on immediately.
“We haven’t cured anything in this country since polio. If we’re the most advanced Western democracy that’s ever existed, we should be able to cure diseases, not just put Band-Aids on them,” said Savage, who lost his father to cancer.
“I want them to all start working together beyond the bureaucracy and actually solving diseases, giving them a budget and maybe a temporary timeline, like saying, ‘You’ve got six years to solve prostate cancer, otherwise you lose all your funding.’ It’s heartbreaking to know that we may potentially someone could have had the answer and someone could have had the right cocktail of medicines that would start curing these things but there really is no incentive to cure diseases in this country because government bureaucracies and government entities rely on annual funding in order to continue their budgets.”
He refuses to lay blame.
“I’m not interested in demonizing anyone, which I’ve seen in West Hollywood. We need everyone on board, and we need positive, smart, capable people genuinely trying to fix things.”