- The Washington Times - Monday, June 12, 2000

There are those who really, really want to be the leader of the Free World.

Along with Al Gore and George W. Bush, another 217 hopefuls have officially declared their candidacies for president with the Federal Election Commission, for better or worse, come hell or high water.

They've dutifully filled out FEC Form No. 2 Statement of Candidacy and sent it off, left with the heady sensation that they are, well, running.

"There are those who want to run for president," said Kelly Huff of the FEC. "And this is what they do."

Vera Watts of Lansing, Mich., is in the race, along with George Reid of Pinnacle, N.C., and Caesar Saint Augustine of Malibu, Calif., who represents the "Get Even with the State" party.

Jack Lee Murphy of Santa Fe, Texas, Martin McNally, who resides in the U.S. Penitentiary in Marion, Ill., and Billy Joe Clegg of the Biloxi-based Foundation for Drug Annihilation and Save America Progressive Party are also in the mix.

All told, there are 219 candidates on record with the FEC.

"That figure is fairly typical," said Miss Huff. "We usually get 200 to 300 applications each presidential election year for those who decide, for whatever reason, they want to run. They fill in the form; there's no fee, no nothing. That's it."

The names are all right there on a 24-page, alphabetical list called "All Individuals Who have Filed Statements of Candidacy and/or Organization 2000 Presidential Campaign."

Would-be candidates don't have to register with the agency until they have raised $5,000 in campaign funds.

"They send in the form anyway," Miss Huff notes. "Many don't understand that the next step is getting their name on the ballot in every state through petitions. That's where the weeding out starts."

There are 29 hopefuls from California, 24 from Virginia and 10 out of Texas. Nine of the candidates hail from North Carolina, six from New Hampshire and five from Oregon. Others come from New Mexico, Michigan, South Dakota and Alabama, among other spots.

Beyond the FEC, there's a vast crop of candidates who didn't send in an application but declared their intent nevertheless. Most bloomed for a short time in the political landscape, then opted out.

When Gary Bauer withdrew from the race in February, 14 other GOP candidates also left, according to the Politics I Web site (www.lobbyforme.com), a political resource that includes 72 persons on its list of GOP candidates for president.

Forty-nine Democrats were also in the running alongside Mr. Gore. To date, all but five are still active, according to the list.

Then there are the true independents, representing groups like the New Direction Party, the Priorities Party, the Veterans Industrial Party and the Socialist Equality Party, to name just a few.

New Yorker Thomas Bentley of the Progressive Bull Moose Party is now running for president for the fifth time while the Light Party's Da Vid, a California physician/ ecologist/artist, is in for his second try.

Lightist ideology combines "Republican, Democratic, Libertarian and Green Parties," he said, "to create a new reality with health, peace and freedom for all."

Beyond the pale, there are also candidates whom a determined and often imaginative few would like to see in the White House.

Spaceman Darth Vader is running, along with Theodore Roosevelt, Abraham Lincoln and Bingo the Dog all supported in one fashion or another through Web sites, occasional hoaxed and printed parody.

Mr. Lincoln's supporters note that their candidate has hired political consultant Dick Morris for advice, paying him "two heifers and some kindlin' wood."

Mark Twain is also running.

At his official Internet site (www.twain2000.com), there are all the usual polls, campaign news, endorsements and other trimmings. Mr. Twain is confident, supporters say, that he is fit to run, and has come clean with his sins.

"The rumor that I buried a dead aunt under my grape vine was correct," the waggish group quote their candidate as saying. "The vine needed fertilizing, my aunt had to be buried and I dedicated her to this higher purpose. Does that unfit me for the presidency?"

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