WASHINGTON — Thirteen Republicans. Four Democrats.
A growing list of contenders have tossed their hats in the political ring for the 2016 race to the White House.
But the official tally spans longer than the 17 most talked-about political brands of this cycle.
Like over 400 candidates longer.
As of Thursday, 419 Americans seeking the presidency had filed a Form 2 statement of candidacy with the Federal Election Commission. In the last week alone, 18 new candidates have joined the lineup.
Thomas Keister, a blogger and author from Clarksville, Ind., is lighting up his long-shot White House bid on two decidedly different levels: promoting marijuana bong rips and trolling New York business magnate Donald Trump on Twitter.
Over 1,000 miles away, Silvia Stagg of Miami is mounting her campaign on the niche topic of life-extension. Stagg favors expanded research and medicinal techniques in hospitals that would slow or reverse the human aging process.
Keister and Stagg represent a narrow sliver of afterthought politicians who are choosing to go head-to-head against the 17 mainstream choices thus far: Democrats Lincoln Chafee, Hillary Clinton, Martin O’Malley and Bernie Sanders, as well as Republicans Jeb Bush, Ben Carson, Ted Cruz, Carly Fiorina, Lindsey Graham, Mike Huckabee, Bobby Jindal, George Pataki, Rand Paul, Rick Perry, Marco Rubio, Rick Santorum and Donald Trump.
Most filed as independents, while many are Republicans or Democrats.
Others are far more tongue in cheek.
William Richardson of Las Vegas registered with the FEC under the Helluva Party.
There’s no deadline to file as a candidate with the FEC, but states have explicit filing deadlines so they can prepare ballots.
Politicians officially transition from presumptive to declared candidate when they send in FEC forms.
“You can file at any time, but once you raise or spend $5,000, you’re required to file,” Christian Hilland, an FEC spokesman, said.
The Constitution says presidents must be at least 35 years old when they take office and be natural born U.S. citizens.
Forty-five states and the District of Columbia allow presidential write-in candidates. Hawaii, Nevada, South Dakota, South Carolina and Oklahoma do not.
By sheer number, these underdog candidates have 2016’s most popular pols surrounded.
On the other hand, most lack the deep-pocket allies who can reel in big dollars, according to a review of FEC records.
Take Keister, 39, the founder of DasUberBlog!
“I have not raised a single dollar since declaring on Jan. 1 that I was getting into this,” said Keister, the lone candidate running in the American Marijuana Party.
Keister is one distant contender with a noticeable social media presence. He has more Twitter followers than Chaffee, the former Rhode Island senator and governor who launched his bid June 3.
Asked about which of the leading pols he and his campaign platform could beat, Keister fired off: “Most of them.”
Several, including Keister, said they plan to skip Iowa and New Hampshire, a pair of the early presidential picking states seen as crucial to locking up early voter momentum.
“I have not raised a single dollar since declaring on Jan. 1 that I was getting into this,” Keister said.
Keister’s launch came largely from what he called a prime example of government gridlock: Construction of the new Ohio River Bridges Project in greater Louisville, Ky., that was the culmination of 50 years of legal wrangling.
And if it seems that interest in running for title of America’s leading political leader has surged in recent years, that’s because it has.
The number of candidates has already surpassed the 2012 election list, when 417 people filed during the two-year presidential reporting process.
In 2004, 224 people filed as a presidential candidates. Four years later, that number grew to 367, an increase of more than 60 percent.
Leonard Steinhorn, a professor of public communication and history at American University, attributes the climb over the last four election cycles to the ease of information access spurred largely by the growth in mobile email and the “sharing society.”
“This is the sort of the media age we’re living in where everybody has a chance to tell their story,” said Steinhorn, whose expertise includes the presidency, strategic communication and the media. “Does it mean it they have a prayer to win? No, not at all.”
Although they are dark horse choices, some of these lesser-known candidates have found some success in past political pursuits.
Vermin Supreme of New Hampshire, placed third in the New Hampshire Democratic primary in 2012 with 833 votes. Supreme, who is known for wearing a boot as a hat and carrying a large toothbrush, hinged his campaign on zombie apocalypse awareness and time travel research.
“I’m not holding my breath, but I’m not discounting it either,” Stein said.
Take Jill Stein, a darling of the Green Party. On Tuesday she launched her 2016 bid in an attempt to rekindle the trail she tread four years ago.
“I’m not holding my breath, but I’m not discounting it either,” Stein, a physician, said of her pursuit, dubbed the “Power to the People Plan.” She announced in an address to reporters at the National Press Club.
Stein’s newest platform is based mainly on the Green Party New Deal, an ambitious road map for domestic energy independence. It would provide millions of jobs by transitioning to 100 percent clean renewable energy by 2030, she said.
And then there’s Stagg, who said political alliances with high-level Republicans are the necessary backbone for gaining real political traction.
Stagg said she has spent years courting Rubio, Paul and Fiorina at conservative meet-ups, including the annual Conservative Political Action Conference.
But now, she says she’s ready to take them on in her own attempt to live at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.
“I have Hillary Clinton and Jeb Bush, who will never institute socioeconomic programs,” Stagg, a backer of raising the U.S. minimum wage equal to an annual salary of $100,000, said. “It’s easy to say, ‘Hi how are you, Hillary?’ and before you know it, they’ve got your cash in their hand.”
Should her bid take hold, Stagg said she would make the American dollar the worldwide currency, enact a flat federal income tax of 10 percent and work to eliminate poverty in the U.S.
His site has all the basics of a typical online presidential presence. A tagline, “Everyday People for America,” is clearly defined, and donation tabs and an official campaign announcement video dot the page.
However the website features stock images and incomplete details, including broken links.
In his June 8 filing to the FEC, Paul DeLong of Williamsport, Pa., outlined his former job as a grassroots team leader. He claimed he is a veteran campaign operative for the Bush political family.
In a letter to FEC officials, DeLong said: “I feel that I am more than capable of running my own campaign at this time once I announce myself to some Republican Committees. I am hoping that one of them may pick me up.”
In the face of disappointing support, at least one politician has decided to pull out of the pursuit.
Brian Cole, a Pennsylvania Republican who rolled out his 2016 presidential plan five years ago, recently disbanded the endeavor.
Cole said he will now direct his attention to becoming a U.S. ambassador to Iceland, Chile, Spain, Norway or Madagascar.
But with party names such as American Marijuana Party and Democratic-Farm-Labor, these far less known candidates say they’ve got some political bite to them and aren’t backing down.
At least, not yet.
“The only problem I have is getting myself a vice president,” Stagg said.
Reach Quentin Misiag at [email protected] or 202-408-1494. SHFWire stories are free to any news organization that gives the reporter a byline and credits the SHFWire. Like the Scripps Howard Foundation Wire interns on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.
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