Meet the 2020 presidential candidates you haven’t heard of

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Presidential candidates Joe Collins (left) and Crystal Bergfield (right), both military veterans, are among a massive field of lesser-known 2020 hopefuls.

If you think the 2020 presidential candidate field is crowded, head over to the FEC’s website to check out the scores of ordinary Americans who are filing paperwork every day to run for president.

On Feb. 21, the Center for Responsive Politics reached out to lesser-known presidential hopefuls to ask why they were running. Given that a successful presidential candidate has to raise in the neighborhood of $500 million to run for office, why file the paperwork? What is the best possible outcome an average citizen can hope to achieve mounting a presidential campaign that is certain to fail?

Some less serious campaigns had more outrageous names on their FEC filings, including  Black Label Empire (House of Lords) Darth Cyber Units, Heart Doc Andrew Stops the Oligarchy or The Committee to Put Backbone in the White House.

The field, made up of of approximately 100 candidates, is two-thirds men, one-third women. The major party affiliations listed by candidates include Democratic (40), Republican (13), Green Party (2), and Libertarian (1). Others listed are the American Independent Conservative and Socialist parties. The remaining 40 percent claim to be independent or without party affiliation.  

California leads the field with 20 candidates followed by Texas with 13. Hopefuls were spread out geographically across the United States, with the exception of the far west and Great Plains, where not a single candidate filed in the states of Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, Utah, North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska or Kansas. No one filed from Hawaii, but one person filed from the U.S. Minor Outlying Islands.

As a group, these candidates are overwhelmingly sincere in their desire to lead the United States as president and confront its problems and challenges. Most have their own campaign website and platform of issues. Many refuse to admit their cause is doomed for lack of money. Some admit their campaigns are a joke, and several aren’t old enough to run but filed the paperwork anyway.

The campaign of Joseph Anthony Camp of Colorado is halfway between serious and joking. As Camp is a felon, he can run for president but is ironically unable to vote for himself. Camp hopes to steal votes from major party candidates and if elected promises, “When I am president, EVERYONE will be permitted to vote.”

Self-described as “handicapable,” Raynette Kennedy Weiss and her sister and vice presidential running mate Jessie traveled two miles in their motorized wheelchairs to visit CRP’s offices in person from their home in northeast Washington, D.C. The women hope to use their presidential platform to educate the public about how hard it is to be poor and middle-income in America.

Filing to run for president is the easy part. Simply fill out FEC Form 2, the statement of candidacy, and FEC Form 1, the statement of organization, online. You can also mail the forms to the Federal Election Commission, 1050 First Street, N.E., Washington, D.C. 20463. An FEC identification number will be assigned after the initial filing. Candidates need to open a bank account solely for their campaign organization. The FEC published a 2019 video about candidate registration on YouTube and explains the entire process of running for president in detail.

Getting on the ballot for presidential primaries is much more complicated and time consuming. A candidate must file in all 50 states plus the territories. Each state has different election rules. Furthermore, independent candidates must follow different rules than those who are party-affiliated. Information on contacting each state can be found on the National Conference of State Legislatures website, updated as of 2016.

Perhaps the most difficult process, without substantial funds to draw from, is to get the attention of the American people.

Michael James Ott of Wisconsin is a veteran of the U.S. Navy who served on nuclear ballistic missile submarines where he had a top secret security clearance. He hoped his campaign for a government that was more engaged with and responsive to citizens would “go viral” on social media. Unfortunately, Facebook and Twitter disabled his accounts, perhaps due to an overabundance of caution about fake election websites. Ott had been unable to speak to a person at either corporation for over a month. His accounts were promptly restored after CRP sent emails questioning why they had been disabled.

Another veteran, Crystal Bergfield of Colorado, served with the Army’s elite 82nd Airborne division in both Iraq and Afghanistan. She describes herself as a bridge builder with no political party. Bergfield suffers from PTSD as a result of her service and was awakened to the reality of injustice while volunteering at a local women’s prison. Bergfield is running for president to “be a voice for the voiceless.” On her website, Bergfield asks for donations, including an RV, cameras and “connections.”

Bill Haas of Missouri is running for both St. Louis Board of Education in 2019 and president of the United States in 2020. After serving 16 years on the board, his top presidential priority is the importance of early childhood reading. At 74, Haas is two years older than President Donald Trump but is running against him out of “love for public service.” No stranger to political campaigns, Haas has run unsuccessfully for mayor, alderman, Missouri House of Representatives, Lt. Governor and U.S. House of Representatives.

Joe Collins of California is 13-year Navy veteran who served with Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2008. He hopes to be the first millennial president and is running as a Green Party candidate because he believes Democrats and Republicans have turned a “deaf-ear” to the voices of his generation. Collins was born in South Central Los Angeles, but his mother moved the family to Texas to escape gang violence. His website says the campaign has raised $34,234 so far.

Mark Pierce, also of California, has been an educator and a correctional sergeant. His top issues are to radically confront climate change and make public safety, particularly gun control, a top priority. Pierce wants to bring the Democratic Party back to its roots and away from the influence of big money contributions.

Alan Auguston of New Mexico is a writer of conspiracy and dystopian fiction. He writes, “Ever since a rich, white slave owner wrote the words “all men are created equal”, Americans have deluded themselves that ours is a government of, by and for the people. It isn’t; it never was.”  Auguston envisions rewriting the Constitution so that members of Congress are drafted, then evaluated by their home voters, doing away with campaigns and the problem of funding them. Auguston is launching a new political party called the Maroons to “restore democracy and justice.”

Heart Doc Andrew (Chung) of Georgia was trained as a cardiologist at Georgia State University. He wants to be president of the United States to teach Americans, by example, that they should say “wonderfully hungry” instead of “terribly hungry,” which he calls “h-angry.” He believes an awareness of the importance of proper nutrition would solve most of our societal problems. The humor of this proposition is diminished by the circumstances that precipitated Chung’s obsession with it. In 1997, he was assaulted by police at noon while waiting in his car to pick up his wife from university. The details of the assault are recorded in his book, “Be Hungry.”

These are just a handful of candidates vying for a seat in the Oval Office in 2020. Without the sources of campaign funding and connections needed to gain name recognition, these passionate hopefuls face a steep uphill battle. That’s not stopping these and dozens of other dreamers from trying.

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