Getting elected president of the United States is one of the hardest things in the world. But running for president? Not so hard.
It's so easy, in fact, that this early in the game, in addition to the nearly 20 mainstream Democrats and Republicans vying for the job, there are more than 100 other Americans most people have never ever heard of who have thrown their hats into the ring.
For some, it's the third or fourth time around in the seemingly fruitless pursuit of the highest office in the land, fighting for name recognition amid a group that includes a 37-year-old real estate agent from Boulder, Colorado, with no political experience and a 2.9 college GPA; a Democrat named Ole' Savior; an independent who goes by the name Emperor Caesar; another whose nickname is "Messiah"; and the election director of the National Socialist Movement (otherwise known as the Nazi Party), which always seems to field at least one candidate in every presidential race.
Why do they do it? "Getting on the ballot is not that hard," explained Jordan Lieberman, publisher of Campaigns & Elections magazine. "Besides, why not? There are some people who run for office as a hobby and so they can tell their grandkids one day that they ran for president. Plus, it's good for democracy that the barriers are that low to run — it makes sure that it stays a representative democracy."
While most of these fringe candidates have no chance of getting on the ballot in all 50 states — which you have to do in order to win — many will manage to get on the ballot in at least their state and perhaps one or two others, if they get enough signatures.
According to the Federal Election Commission, more than 130 people have filed paperwork to be official candidates to date. That's just a fraction of the 500-600 hopefuls who typically give it a shot every presidential election cycle. For those of you keeping score at home, we thought we'd break down some of the candidates for you.**
Really Long Shots
Jonathon Albert "The Impaler" Sharkey — 43, Satanist/pagan who is the founder, national chair and commanding general in the 1st Vampyre, Witches, Pagans Party Regiment (2006-present); former U.S. Army soldier; former board member of Hillborough, New Jersey's County Executive Republican Committee; dark priest/ advisor to the Church of the Followers of Lucifer; founder and national chair of Vampyres, Witches, Pagans Against Impaired Driving (2005-present). As an ordained Satanic dark priest, vows to perform same-sex marriages at White House at least once a month and to only impale criminals and terrorists, not law-abiding American citizens.
Gene Amondson — 64, running for the second time for the Prohibition party, Amondson has spent the past 20 years dressing up as the Grim Reaper with a whiskey bottle in one hand and a scythe in the other to preach the ills of liquor. Also a wood carver, oil painter, pie baker, children's book author and professional impersonator of 1900s evangelical anti-booze preacher Billy Sunday.
Claire Elisabeth Fields "America, Peach" Cruise — 41, Buddhist, president and founder of the Department of Empowerment, posted platform on her MySpace page using a computer at a public library. Advocates Iraq pullout, making Mexico a U.S. territory and giving the homeless living quarters with at least one bedroom per adult, a kitchenette and a full bathroom (including bathtub). Changed her last name to Cruise in January and claims to have convinced the Tom Cruise to abandon his birth name, Mapother, in order to make it in Hollywood.
Jackson Kirk Grimes — 56, a single pagan with a GED who once portrayed Hitler on "Star Trek," this director of the United Fascist Union (which promotes the economic theories and political ideologies of Benito Mussolini and Saddam Hussein) and two-time presidential candidate promises to abolish paper money and create a global government if elected.
Joseph Martyniuk Jr. — self-described inventor and computer guru. No further information was available because his campaign Web site link was broken when we clicked on it.
Donald Kenneth Allen — 60, former professional horseshoer, amateur WWII historian and veterinary doctor. Hobbies include rifle marksmanship, scuba diving and tae kwon do (second-degree black belt). Advocates shipping drug users to Holland and using racial profiling to look for terrorists.
Terry "Tee" Barkdull — 51, retired from the Navy (trained with Air Force, Army and Marines as well); founder of the "America Party." Thoughts on immigration: "All Americans suffer because of the criminal. Then we suffer more with all the bleeding hearts that fell [sic] sorry for the criminal. Send them all to Mexico!!!" (From his Web site.)
Yaphet Kotto — 67, Yes, that Yaphet Kotto, the actor best known for playing a no-BS federal agent chasing Robert De Niro in "Midnight Run" and appearing in such films as "Brubaker," "Alien," "The Puppet Masters" and "Freddy's Dead: The Final Nightmare." The Web site for his exploratory committee lists as its main goal the popularizing of "vibration politics," which seeks harmony among all men and planets.
Hugh Cort III — 55, psychiatrist and counter-terrorism expert, member of Gideons International (which distributes Bibles worldwide), who thinks we should have 200,000 more troops in Iraq and a ban on gay marriage. In May, according to his Web site, he won the Narragansett and South Kingstown Presidential Straw Poll held at the Canochet Beach Club in Rhode Island, beating out Mitt Romney and Rudy Giuliani.
Warren Roderick "Bob, Warren G." Ashe — 50, ran for president in 2000 and 2004, former U.S. Navy pilot and "Earth Ground Computer Specialist" in the Army National Guard, president of the Air Force's U.S. Anti Drug Task Force (2000-2007) and president of the Marijuana Legalization Committee.
Keith Russell Judd — 49, Aircraft engine inspector, sound engineer and salesperson at Grandma's Music & Sound, Judd has run for president (1996, 2000, 2004); mayor of Albuquerque (1993, 1997); and governor of New Mexico (1994). Former member of the Federation of Super Heroes (1976-1982).
** Information collected from candidates' Web sites and profiles on Vote-Smart.org.