Governors Races Attract The Colorful

 

If a former pro wrestler nicknamed The Body can be elected governor, then why not a comedian, an ex-stripper, or a pistol packing candidate? They are among the more colorful contenders for high office this year.

Ever since Minnesota elected flamboyant former wrestler Jesse Ventura to be its state leader, candidates following an unbeaten path into politics have held higher hopes that they, too, could wake up one day in the governor's mansion.

This year, retired exotic dancer Barbara Scott, is trying to become Nevada governor. Comedian Kaui Hill is seeking Hawaii's executive post. And in a departure from a candidate's usual baggage of leaflets and hand soap, Alaska's Fran Ulmer plans to carry a pistol on the gubernatorial campaign trail.

Will this give Ulmer a better shot at winning Alaska voters?

The gun will provide "a little extra insurance," Ulmer said, for "traveling alone."

Ulmer, the Democratic lieutenant governor and first woman to win statewide office, said, "In Alaska, firearms are quite different" because they offer protection from bears and other wildlife. Ulmer says she'll rarely carry the concealed weapon.

Alaskans take Ulmer seriously as a candidate, but the Hawaiian comedian and Las Vegas ex-stripper have had a tougher time getting respect even though they have run for governor before.

In Scott's first campaign in 1998, the former exotic dancer staged downtown Las Vegas striptease shows to win votes.

Ted Jelen, chairman of the political science department at the University of Nevada at Las Vegas, said Scott is "not really being taken seriously as someone who might become governor or even the Democratic nominee.

"There are occasional stories that indicate it's like local color, only in Nevada would this happen. She has no apparent background, I mean, besides dealing with people," he said.

Hawaiian candidate Hill, a.k.a. comic Bu La'ia, told The Honolulu Star-Bulletin he's "serious as a heart attack."

"He has a certain playful, almost Saturday-Night-Live' way to deal with politics," said Ira Rohter, co-chairman of Hawaii's Green Party and associate professor of political science at the University of Hawaii. "This is not a guy who's ever run a campaign. He just bounces around on TV shows."

The Green Party went to court to disqualify Hill in 1998 because he labeled himself Green. In 1994, Hill's candidacy faltered when it was discovered he was too young and used his brother's I.D. to file his papers. This year, Hill registered as a Natural Law Party candidate.

Quixotic candidates are enshrined in American politics. In 1979, Louisiana gubernatorial candidate Luther Divine Knox legally changed his name to None Of The Above. But a judge ruled his name couldn't appear on the ballot.

 
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