A postcard from the Lesser-Known Candidate Forum, a New Hampshire primary tradition
MANCHESTER, N.H. — Richard Rist is a business owner from Maryland, frustrated with how divided the nation has become. His solution: run for president. Because... why not?
On Thursday, Rist was part of what's called the Lesser-Known Candidate Forum, held by Saint Anselm College in Manchester every four years, a tradition that dates back to 1972 in the first-in-the-nation primary state.
It only costs $1,000 to get your name on the presidential primary ballot in New Hampshire, a far lower barrier to entry than in other states. So, there's no shortage of lesser-known candidates.
Rist is one of 45 people who will be on that ballot next month. Does he see a clear path to victory? "No. No I'd be lying if I said that. Do I hold out the possibility that I could grab some traction? Yeah, I do," he told NPR.
Dressed conservatively in a navy sport coat and a floral tie, Rist made his way to the stage, where he found himself sandwiched between a man wearing a big black rubber boot on his head, and a candidate named Paperboy Love Prince whose outfit evoked a wish-granting genie.
Twenty of the lesser-known presidential candidates came out to share their ideas, including Donald Picard of Cambridge, Mass.
"When I began this rather quixotic journey a few months ago, I had as a stretch goal that I would be participating in a presidential debate, and here I am. Wow!" he said.
Republican Peter Jedick, a retired firefighter from Cleveland, said he wanted to try to get attention for his ideas, like moving the government out of Washington, D.C., and dealing with the debt.
But he also has the kind of optimism even some better known candidates are fueled by. "Well, I'm not going beat Trump. But I think I can move up there with, like, Nikki Haley and those guys," he said.
And then there was perennial candidate Vermin Supreme, known for the boot he wears on his head. "Vermin Supreme will take away your guns ... and give you better ones. And these better guns will shoot marshmallows, but they will still be lethal," he said to laughter in the room.
His stated platform had something to do with space alien ponies, though it was a bit hard to decipher.
When it was all over, Rist, the Maryland business owner, had answered questions about gun control and the conflict in the Middle East — and also promised that a vote for him would prevent the zombie apocalypse.
Rist declared the evening a success, because if people were looking at the colorful candidates on either side of him — and they were — then they were looking at him, too.
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