Rocky: Utah's other favorite son
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2012, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Pennsylvania may be the proud home of the Liberty Bell and the state where the U.S. Constitution was drafted, but 225 years after that event, it's now being called the place where democracy goes to die.

At least that's what Rocky Anderson will say about his adventures as a presidential candidate for the Justice Party.

Anderson, who has been trying to get on the ballot in as many states as possible, gave up the effort in the Keystone State after learning about a law there that requires a candidate to pay court fees if the candidate's right to appear on the ballot is challenged and that candidate loses.

Anderson learned of the law from Libertarian Party candidate Gary Johnson and Constitution Party candidate Virgil Goode, whose efforts to get on the ballot in Pennsylvania were challenged by the Republican Party.

He then talked to Ralph Nader, the Green Party candidate who was challenged in 2004 by the Democratic Party and ended up paying $31,000 out of his personal funds.

The fact that both parties challenged candidates they felt would take votes from their own base, and Pennsylvania's draconian law aimed at discouraging minority party candidates from filing, are exactly the reasons why a strong third party is needed, said Anderson, who sees little difference between the two major parties.

Anderson, a longtime liberal Democrat and two-term mayor of Salt Lake City, says the Democrats were loud in their criticisms of former Republican President George W. Bush for spying on American citizens, recklessly pursuing enemies and killing innocent civilians in the process and allowing Wall Street manipulators to damage the economy with no consequences. But the Democrats are silent when their party's president, Barack Obama, is doing essentially the same things.

The two parties are so entrenched in the culture of money, lobbyists and corruption, neither is in a position to solve the nation's problems, Anderson maintains. But they jealously guard their own power and use their money and connections to keep a third party from joining the debate in any meaningful way.

I interviewed Anderson on Thursday and met his vice presidential running mate, Luis Rodriguez, whose own personal story makes the Anderson campaign that much more intriguing.

Rodriguez, 58, was born to Mexican parents on the U.S. side of the border in El Paso, Tex. His family moved to east Los Angeles, where he earned a long rap sheet as a gang member and drug user. He also displayed unique talents in art and writing and won the support of community advocates who recognized his potential.

He gave up the gang life at the age of 19 and became one of the very community advocates who supported him when he was in trouble. He has written several books, mostly about Chicano issues, and is a sought-after speaker.

Rodriguez is a proud veteran of the civil rights movement and sees his role in the Anderson campaign as a continuation of that effort. And he doesn't look like your typical vice presidential candidate. When I met him he was wearing a worn T-shirt and his right forearm revealed a tattoo of a beautiful, dark-haired woman.

Anderson, who has raised $84,000, most of it online, says his candidacy is just a step in a long movement to take control from the special interests represented by the two major parties and put it in the hands of the people.

If Mitt Romney can be called a favorite son of Utah, then the contrast with the Beehive State's other favorite son (at least in the area between 12th Avenue and 21st South in Salt Lake City) couldn't be greater. —