- The Washington Times - Monday, September 18, 2006

FRANKFORT, Ky.

Otis Hensley had to duck to avoid tree branches as he rode a 12-foot-tall fiberglass bull

around the state Capitol.

The long-shot Kentucky gubernatorial candidate had attached signs to each side of the brown and white caricature declaring that, if elected, he would “control the bull in Frankfort.”

Mr. Hensley, a demolition contractor, said he can’t afford a TV advertising campaign, so the political stunt was necessary to let voters know he is running for the Democratic nomination in next year’s election.

And it worked. Television crews and newspaper reporters couldn’t resist watching Mr. Hensley’s ride.

Such stunts by underdog candidates have been a mainstay in American politics. Some have dressed in clown costumes, debated life-size cutouts of their opponents, auctioned themselves on EBay, paid election filing fees with coins and sent campaign workers dressed as giant rats or chickens to the opposition’s political events.

Michael Baranowski, a political science professor at Northern Kentucky University, said candidates who use such tactics run the risk of being seen as jokers. “The one thing you really cannot afford as a political candidate is not to be taken seriously,” he said.

Mr. Hensley, who has calloused hands from wielding crowbars to tear down buildings, says voters are tired of polished politicians and the millions of dollars spent by their campaign consultants.

“All I’ve got to do is be myself, and just be honest,” he said. “That bull is going to help me get the attention I need. And then I’ll have to convince people that I am the right man for this state.”

Stunts are not limited to little-known candidates.

The Kentucky Democratic Party outfitted one of its own in a giant chicken costume at a political picnic in August to poke fun at Gov. Ernie Fletcher, a Republican, for being too “chicken to show up for the event.”

“These types of things basically draw attention to a situation,” said state Democratic Party Chairman Jerry Lundergan. “Politics should be fun. … I’m pleased when somebody does something a little different.”

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