Quirky Field of Aspiring Politicos

By Kellyn Brown

Shay Joshua Garnett acknowledged last week that he has a warrant out for his arrest in Indiana. Despite his legal woes, he promised to continue his fledgling campaign for the Republican nomination to challenge U.S. Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont., in the upcoming election. And who can blame him?

Several elections for higher office, here and elsewhere, have attracted an unusual – if not downright bad – lot. Races are crowded as interest in this political season runs full tilt. For example, Garnett, a Billings truck driver being sought by Indiana authorities for breaking probation related to charges of stalking, is one of six candidates vying for the Republican Senate nomination. He’s not the only bad one.

Perennial candidate Bob Kelleher is also running for the seat, although you could hardly call him a Republican. He has previously lost 14 bids for various offices under various labels, including as a Green Party and Democratic candidate. When he ran for Baucus’s seat in 2002, he vowed not to cut taxes – a campaign strategy that rarely works. Just ask Walter Mondale, a bad candidate who ran for president on a similar platform.

At the 1984 Democratic Convention Mondale said he would need to raise taxes if elected. However honest he may have been, it led to a subsequent trouncing by incumbent Pres. Ronald Reagan, losing every state in the union except his home state, Minnesota, and the District of Columbia. Bad candidates aren’t limited to era or party.

In Idaho this year, 13 people are running for the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by Republican Larry Craig, who was charged with soliciting sex from another man in a Minneapolis public bathroom. One candidate who lives in Southern California has never actually been to Idaho – yet.

“Everything I’ve heard about Idaho is beautiful and gorgeous, and I want to serve America” Hal Styles told NewWest.Net, adding that he plans to move to Boise “sometime soon.” Styles has already run unsuccessfully for office in California several times. I doubt his luck will change in Idaho.

Another candidate running for Craig’s seat is Independent Marvin Richardson, who legally changed his name to “Pro-Life.” Thus, state lawmakers there quickly convened to pass a measure that requires the parenthetical (a person formerly known as …) following names of candidates who change their names to political slogans, to avoid voter confusion. Pro-Life opposed the bill, telling the Spokesman-Review, “This is ridiculous.” I would argue he has it backwards.

The number of off-kilter candidates in the Mountain West reminds me of the California recall election in 2003. While there were several legitimate candidates and reasons to recall then-Democratic Gov. Gray Davis, the race drew some absurd candidates, including a porn star and a Sumo wrestler. Actor Gary Coleman, of “Diff’rent Strokes” fame, ran as an Independent and garnered 14,242 votes.

Some bad candidates end up with good results. Former pro wrestler Jesse “The Body” Ventura was elected governor of Minnesota in 1998, although he refused to run for reelection, convinced the press was destroying him and his family. Talk show host Jerry Springer served one year as mayor of Cincinnati, despite the fact that he previously acknowledged hiring a prostitute.

The candidates, good and bad, running for office this year are the fruits of democracy. It’s unfortunate, however, that as hopefuls flock to high-profile races like the U.S. Senate, local races for school boards and city councils go ignored. Surely a bad candidate is better than none at all.