Coloring outside the lines

Every now and then we get a candidate who color outside the lines during a political campaign  They add some fun to the entire process that often involves other people who take themselves far too seriously and make sure they stay within the programmed boundaries of the campaign. They also provide those of us who watch politics with some enjoyment because of the consternation they cause their party leaders.

We have one of those people this year in the Republican race for Lieutenant Governor.  We’ll talk about him in a little bit but we first want to recall some others that easily float to the top of our memory.

Remember Allen Hanson, the 72-year old Concordia resident who had done nine months in a Minnesota prison for felony fraud and larceny in 1978?  In 2002, he crushed the Republican party’s favored candidate, Jay Kanzler, in the primary and the GOP had to deal with having a convicted felon running for state auditor. .

Watching a political party squirm adds entertainment value to a campaign.

He lost the auditor’s race to Claire McCaskill by about 400,000 votes but 665,000 voters cast ballots for him although he had no party support and seldom made any kind of a public appearance.  His candidate was the beginning of an effort to pass the current law saying convicted felons cannot serve in public office.

Or James J. Askew of Oakville.  He lost Democratic primary elections for Secretary of State in 1972, ’76’ 80, and ’84.  He lost in a primary for the U. S. Senate in 1986.  Then, Holy Cow!!!  He won the Democratic primary for Secretary of state in 1988.  That time it was the Democrats who squirmed.

What do you do with a general election candidate that you can’t really take seriously?

Askew was crushed by Roy Blunt in the general election.  But he wouldn’t go away.  He lost the Secretary of State primary in 1992 and again four years later and in 2000.  In ’98 he finished a distant second to Jay Nixon in the Democratic primary for the U. S. Senate nomination.

James J. Askew died in 2008 but during his three months of fame he added some different interest to a campaign.

One guy who was never as much a diplomatic issue for either of our major parties was Jim Noland, Jr., an Osage Beach farmer who was elected to the Missouri House  four times, starting in 1956, then returning in 1962, being re-elected in 1964 and in ’66.  He then was elected to the state senate twice (1968, 1972) and then lost a primary for Congress in ’74, lost a primary for state senate in ’76, lost a race for Lt. Gov in ’68, lost a race for the Missouri House in ’90, won a primary race for Congress in 1994 but lost in the general election.  He tried again in ’96 but lost the primary, won the Congressional primary in 2000 but lost the general election.  Won the Congressional primary in 2002 but lost the general election. He ran for Congress again in 2004 and lost the general election, and won the primary again in 2006 but lost the general election.  He was a Republican who challenged Ike Skelton in those congressional district races.  He apparently loved to campaign. For years we waited to see what office he’s file for this year.

This year we have Mike Carter, a St. Louis real estate attorney, a Republican who ran for Lieutenant Governor in 2008 and got 16 percent of the primary vote.  He told us that in our first interview but he neglected to mention that he got 16 percent of the DEMOCRATIC vote four years ago.

In our second interview, after Peter Kinder decided to try to keep the job Carter and Brad Lager want, he readily admitted he had switched parties.

He’s been billing himself as “an independent-minded Republican who has cast votes for Ross Perot and Ron Paul.”  He says he likes the Republican fiscal conservatism but also understands the need for compassion and supports the safety net positions held by many Democrats.

He told us, “There’s a conundrum for people who really are independents–which moniker they’re going to wear and I don’t think it’s fair that they’re forced to choose..Unfortunately politics is not a smorgasbord where you pick and choose and do what you want out of three or four or five parties. (We have) two of them.  I like a lot out of both parties…The human condition is to stereotype, to put people in bloc groups and act in ethnocentric ways.  It’s more responsible… to be on both parties in two or three different races for different things..I think you should be able to switch all day long because the choices should be as steadfast as they are.” [Excerpts from interview]

Those of us who have seen a lot of campaigns and have lost hours of our lives listening to programmed rhetoric and unfunny humor and innuendo enjoy mavericks like Hanson and Askew and Carter because they color outside the lines.  That’s not to say we take their sides.  Far from it. They’re just parts of a bigger picture. But the ones we’ve talked about here took their candidacies seriously.  They prove anybody can run for public office.  And it’s possible to sometimes succeed.

Sometimes they win.  Then it’s always fun to watch one political party or another wonder what to do about them when they do.

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