In the days immediately following the Iowa caucuses and just before the New Hampshire primary, one presidential candidate made a brief stop in Williston.
He came without publicity, dropping unannounced into the Observer offices late on Friday afternoon.
He wore blue jeans, sneakers, a pine green sweatshirt and a green Columbia winter coat. His long, white hair and thick beard provided a stark contrast to the $400 haircuts of John Edwards.
He does not have the name recognition of longtime pols like Sens. Hillary Clinton and John McCain. But put on an equal playing field, Willcox, Ariz. resident Daniel Kingery believes he has as good a chance of becoming president of the United States as Barack Obama or Mike Huckabee.
Of course, an equal playing field is hard to come by when the divorced, 46-year-old Kingery has raised a grand total of $116 from three supporters. Or when his war chest is a mere $7,616, according to information registered with the Federal Election Commission. Or when he is denied requests for interviews with major media outlets, like Fox and CBS, as Kingery says he was.
Instead, Kingery is attempting to drum up support by gaining publicity from local media outlets. He left Arizona early last month in an ’86 Crown Vic he’d bought for $900. He drove to Iowa, Illinois and South Carolina, then up the eastern seaboard to New Hampshire and Maine before hitting Vermont on Friday.
Operating a laundromat in Willcox, Kingery found himself hooked on the cable coverage of the rapidly approaching presidential primary, which inspired his own run.
“I got in as a put up or shut up deal, saying I could do a better job than the candidates,” Kingery told the Observer during Friday’s impromptu interview.
It’s a lofty leap for Kingery, who has never held elected office and has no political leaning.
“I’m not affiliated with any political party whatsoever,” Kingery said, even refusing to identify himself as generally leaning to the political left or right. “It depends on the topic.”
The last time Kingery voted, it was for Ross Perot, sometime during the Bill Clinton era.
“There’s been nothing worth voting for,” Kingery explained.
He ran unsuccessfully several times for selectman in Peterborough, N.H., where he lived for 18 years and frequently clashed with town officials over a junkyard he owned and where he also ran a strip club.
He spent time in jail for contempt of court in cases related to the junkyard – Kingery said he would not erect a fence around the property – and refusal to pay parking tickets. He has appeared in court wearing a kangaroo costume and a clown outfit to protest parking tickets.
The candidate does not shy from past transgressions, freely admitting his jail time during his interview with the Observer.
If elected president, Kingery said he would disband the legislative branch of federal government, insisting “little or nothing is done” in the body. Existing laws would remain in place, and changes would occur when a two-thirds majority adopts a policy: A law would originate at the municipal level; when a majority of cities or towns passes the law, it would become county policy; a majority of counties makes it a state law; and a majority of states makes it a federal law.
Kingery estimates he needs 1.5 million signatures to get on every ballot in the general election, and believes in his odds.
“If I got half the national publicity (as the frontrunners) I’d be the president by the end of the year,” Kingery boasted.
Whether or not he can drum up that publicity, “time will only tell.”
Kingery has a campaign Web site at www.portablepublishing.com.