NASHUA, N.H. (Jan. 5, 2012) — An unemployed father. A postal worker with a web business. A telecommunications director.
Those are among the 44 — yes, 44 — candidates running for president in New Hampshire’s primary on Jan. 10.
The lesser-known candidates come in several varieties, said Chris Galdieri, a political scientist at the New Hampshire Institute of Politics. Some are eccentric or unusual. Some run to draw attention to special causes. And they embody the American idea, said Galdieri, that anyone can try to be president.
For the eccentrics, Galdieri said, “I don’t want to dismiss them as fringe candidates, but fringe candidates is probably not a bad to describe them.” Others, he said, have more of a political background.
“Maybe these folks would be perfectly credible candidates for a local city council back home or a candidate for Congress or something,” he said, “but I think you’re kind of setting your sights a little high when you start off going for president.”
Take, for example, Mark Callahan.
He’s a 34-year-old unemployed father of two from Oregon. His last job was under contract with Verizon Wireless to maintain computers and workstations in Verizon shops. His contract ended in February and now he’s running for the Republican nomination for president.
He joined the race, Callahan said, to shrink government. “I got tired of sitting on the couch watching TV and complaining,” he said.
If elected, Callahan said, he would dismantle many government departments, including the Department of Energy, the Department of Commerce and the Department of Education. These issues are best handled at the local level, he said. This will benefit the younger generation. “I’m doing this for my daughter, I’m doing this for all America’s sons and daughter,” he said.
Then there’s Jeff Lawman, 43, of Derry, N.H. In ordinary life, he commutes to Massachusetts from New Hampshire where he works as a director of quality assurance and reliability engineering in the telecommunications industry. His job, he said, adds strength to his candidacy since he deals with foreign markets often.
“So when the main candidates want you to believe that they’re the only ones who have a working knowledge of East Asia and China that’s simply not true,” he said.
Lawman isn’t accepting donations during his campaign. That, he said, partially keeps him as a lesser-known candidate. He is a conservative Republican, he said. But he lays claim to what he calls New Hampshire values as well. “When a 10-day power outage threatens the health, comfort and safety of a neighbor, we immediately respond,” he said.
Benjamin Linn, 38, of Milford, N.H., is running to put an end to what he describes as the havoc created by President Barack Obama’s administration. He was disheartened, he said, by Obama’s failure to end the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan earlier. So, when his 9-year-old son encouraged him to run, he did just that.
He is juggling his job at the U.S. Postal Service with campaign visits to Iowa, South Carolina, Florida and California. “Americans all across the country are hurting,” Linn said. “They voted for change in 2008 that never came.”
Among the more eccentric candidates are a candidate who won a lawsuit to include his middle name, and his main issue, on the ballot. Now on the ballot is Craig “Tax Freeze” Freis.
Another is Vermin Supreme, who is listed on the ballot as being from Rockport, Mass. Often he campaigns wearing multiple, colorful ties and with a boot on his head for a hat. His campaign issues include: mandatory toothbrushing laws, zombie preparedness, time travel research and free ponies for all Americans.
“Once we switch to a pony-based economy,” Supreme said at a recent campaign event, “life is going to be sweet, let me tell you.”
(Meghin Delaney, a junior with double majors in magazine journalism and political science, is covering the New Hampshire primary for The Lowell Sun.)