Politics • Party snubs ex-SLC mayor, picks comic for possible spot on presidential ballot.
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For Rocky Anderson, who set out on a presidential campaign aimed at making serious critiques of a political system corrupted by corporate money, it was the electoral equivalent of a kick in the groin.
After winning 43 percent of the vote in the California Peace and Freedom party's non-binding June primary, party officers went a different route and nominated another candidate with Utah ties: Roseanne Barr, who was born in Salt Lake City.
"As a person who made a career out of being a shrill politician, it must be embarrassing for Rocky to be out-shrilled by Roseanne Barr," said Thad Hall, a University of Utah political scientist who has been critical of Anderson's bid.
Anderson describes the move as a rigged, backroom deal, and withdrew his name from consideration before the nomination was official. But in the process, he lost out on a potential spot on the California ballot a setback in Anderson's effort to put the Justice Party he formed late last year in front of as many voters as possible.
Still, Anderson is on the ballot in 13 states as either a candidate for the Justice Party or other like-minded groups and submitted signatures Thursday to get on the ballot in Idaho.
On Tuesday, he received the nomination of the Connecticut Independent Party and has received the party's nomination in New Mexico. In Colorado, he will be an independent candidate and in Oregon he has been nominated by the Progressive Party.
Work is ongoing in three other states and there are write-in campaigns elsewhere.
"We're in this more than to simply make a statement," Anderson said in a recent interview. "We can, with very significant support in the election, make an enormous difference in altering the disastrous direction this country is headed," Anderson said.
A cluster of offices hidden at the end of a bare concrete hallway above a downtown Salt Lake City delicatessen serves as Anderson's national campaign headquarters. A photo of Robert Kennedy greets visitors and the walls are adorned with photos, clippings and cartoons from Anderson's political career. A few paid staffers and volunteers have stayed busy working phones and coordinating the ballot drives in various states. Anderson said his supporters are, "working for peanuts, primarily out of real passion."
The whole operation is run on a shoestring budget. Anderson has raised about $76,000, and spent $20,000 of his own money on the campaign, according to his most recent disclosure, filed at the end of June.
"It's sometimes hand-to-mouth," said Anderson. "We have campaign workers that are coming in, seven days a week, who are working for $500 a month and several who are working for free."
His donors have kicked in just a few hundred dollars each, reflecting Anderson's key theme that politics today has been corrupted by well-heeled corporate interests.
"The Republican and Democratic parties have both helped create and now thrive from a very corrupt system, where money truly calls the shots in Washington," Anderson said. "We can turn that around if enough people signify through their vote and their political activity that collectively we are just not going to stand for this anymore."
Sally Soriano, a former school teacher in Seattle who moved to Salt Lake City to work on Anderson's campaign after hearing him speak in Portland, calls it a "labor of love."
She said Anderson's opposition to interrogation and indefinite detention and advocacy for holding Wall Street accountable for the mortgage crisis and economic collapse drew her to the campaign.
"There are a lot of people right now who feel the direction we're headed is getting worse by the day," she said. "These problems are just monumental and for someone to be able to articulate them and set out solutions like Rocky does so clearly is something I felt that I [had to support]."
This week, Anderson is on a swing through the East Coast, with campaign events in Connecticut, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and New York.
Blyden Potts, a Justice Party organizer and Anderson supporter who lives in Shippensburg, Pa., said he has never been happy with the two-party system and was glad to see Anderson get into the race as a third-party candidate.
"I'm opposed to having the president authorize assassinations of people. I'm opposed to indefinite detention, even with terrorists," Potts said. "To me this is a rather scary concentration of power in the hands of the government and Rocky is opposed to those things and I'm on board with that."
Potts said he also believes that Anderson has integrity, whereas Obama has promised and not delivered and Romney flip-flops on positions.
Despite the devotion of his supporters, Anderson's candidacy hasn't registered in the national political landscape, said Quin Monson, director of the Center for the Study of Elections and Democracy and Brigham Young University.
"He hasn't achieved any visibility at all," Monson said. Occasionally, some third-party candidates, like Ross Perot, have had the wealth to gain ballot access and spread their message, but the winner-take-all electoral system still favors the two major parties, he said.
"What I haven't seen any evidence of is that Rocky has resources to gain visibility for his message or that he's being taken seriously by anyone or that his message is getting through in any way," Monson said.
Anderson said mainstream coverage has been scarce, but he has had more attention from alternative and progressive programs.
He has also tried to tap into social media to spread his views through a series of videos where he condemns both parties for fighting "wars of aggression," selling out to Wall Street, ignoring climate change and failing to guarantee Americans health care.
Assuming Anderson doesn't win and it seems about as likely as Roseanne Barr being sworn into office in January Anderson said he still believes he will have planted the seeds for a major change.
"The intention all along was that the Justice Party will be here for the duration," he said, "and it will have a powerful presence even between elections." he said. "We intend to focus on the fundamentals that will attract people that previously may have been members of all the different parties who realize that under one banner we can all accomplish a lot."