As the big names in the Colorado gubernatorial race drag an already strange election into even stranger territory, independent candidate Jason Clark has quietly toiled in obscurity.
Well, not entirely. Back in May, Clark posted an ad for his running mate on Craigslist.
It was the kind of stunt that people love to forward on in e-mails, and it bought him face-time everywhere from The Rachel Maddow Show to The Tonight Show With Jay Leno.
But since then, it's been the kind of low-profile slog one might expect for an outsider candidate. Most outlets didn't even report on the fact that Clark ultimately found his running mate, Victoria Adams, in response to the Craigslist ad. Clark describes his lieutenant governor as a tough, well-educated ex-marine and cancer survivor.
"We consider ourselves talented, but we're just regular citizens," he says. "We're working-class people with jobs. We know what it's like to have a problem paying your mortgage; we don't have to read about it in the New York Times."
Clark, who runs his own investment company, says he's running for office because he believes government needs more independent thinkers who are not tied to a party.
He also believes that the challenges he has faced in the private sector give him a unique perspective that will resonate with ordinary citizens.
"You hear a lot of politicians talking about leadership, but they're not leading. They're not representing the people, they're not making the tough choices, and they're not being honest with us. It's easy to say 'I want to represent you, I understand you.' But that's hard to believe when you have $10 million in the bank."
Clark says he left the Republican Party in 2004 because he was opposed to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and became disillusioned with what he calls the GOP's newfound fondness for big government. "There's no difference right now between the Republicans and the Democrats when it comes to spending," he says.
Clark describes himself as a fiscal conservative and a social liberal, although his views on individual issues vary and are not tied to any one party.
Fundraising and endorsements have been big challenges, however. As has the exclusion of third-party candidates from televised debates.
"We followed all of the Colorado statutes in order to get on the ballot, so I don't see why we shouldn't be included in the debates," he says. "I understand that these are private entities extending invitations, but that means private entities are determining the outcome of the election. How is that good for the people?"
But Clark saves his most pointed words for the statewide circus that has become Colorado's gubernatorial race between Republican Dan Maes, Democrat John Hickenlooper and American Constitution Party convert Tom Tancredo.
"It's embarrassing and it's ridiculous. It lacks in character and integrity," he says. "In the end, it's the people who will suffer."
Unfortunately for Colorado voters, character and integrity are two of the few things that you can't find on Craigslist.
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