News From Terre Haute, Indiana

Local & Bistate

August 12, 2012

Always a ‘Survivor’

Libertarian Rupert Boneham once again competing to win votes

INDIANAPOLIS —

There’s a reason why the volunteers who man the Libertarian Party booth at the Indiana State Fair have a big bottle of hand sanitizer on hand: Everybody seems to want to touch or be touched by their star candidate.

Even people with no interest in politics can’t seem to resist a two-handed grasp or full-body bear hug from Rupert Boneham — “Survivor” TV reality star and Libertarian candidate for Indiana governor.

Almost every weekday since the 17-day fair kicked off, Boneham, 48, has been working the fair crowd, capitalizing on his celebrity to practice the old-fashioned retail politics of meeting and greeting voters.

Boneham signs campaign photos with his signature  “Argh!” — the pirate cry he adopted as a three-time castaway on the long-running “Survivor” series. But he follows it up by pressing his Libertarian message of a lot less government intrusion and a lot more personal freedoms.

“We don’t have the kind of corporate sponsorship that the other two parties have to buy TV time,” said Chris Spangle, a Rupert booster and executive director of the state Libertarian party. “So he has to connect with people one-on-one.”

And connect he does. Boneham’s fans line up along tables inside the fair’s Exposition Hall that are stacked with “Rupert for Governor” bumper stickers, campaign buttons and tie-dyed T-shirts like the ones he wore while stranded with strangers in remote tropical locations for his “Survivor” stints.

He greets each of them in a booming voice and the request: “Tell me your name.” They almost always comply.

When he walks the fairgrounds, on his way to buy marinated kabobs from one of his favorite food vendors, the Terre-Haute-based Sati Baba, fair-goers who recognize the wild-haired, bushy-bearded competitor stop and gawk. As they do, Boneham moves in with an enthusiastic handshake or a hug.

“This is my new form of ‘Survivor,’ ” he often says. “I’m running for governor of Indiana.”

It seems okay with Boneham if they didn’t know that. “Hey, whatever opens the door,” Boneham said.

He’s convinced his celebrity status has opened the door for Libertarians to get out their message.

Libertarians believe the only legitimate use of government power is to preserve inalienable rights of life, liberty, property and self-governance. For Boneham, that means government needs to get out the business of providing entitlements, whether that’s welfare for the poor or “corporate welfare” such as tax credits and subsidies for big business. He doesn’t think government has the right to ban guns or gay marriage.

“People are ready for something different,” Boneham said. “The people who come to meet me, I don’t hit all their issues, but I do appeal to their desire for someone who is not a politician.”

Fair-goer Vicki Comer of Danville came to meet Rupert-the-celebrity, but left impressed by the Rupert-the-candidate. She likes the fact that he donated a portion of his $1 million winnings from “Survivor” to his Indianapolis-based charity, Rupert’s Kids, which provides mentoring and job training to at-risk youths.

“I think he would make decisions for all the people,” she said. “Not just for the people in office, or the big wigs, or the people with money.”

Along with asking for votes from people like Comer,  Boneham has been asking for money to help fuel his low-budget campaign, which he’s taken on the road with a gas-guzzling RV.

“When I started this, I was sure I could win the race by spending $50,000,” Boneham said. “But here we are, and I’ve just about exhausted those funds and we need more to make it to the end.”

Boneham is the underdog when it comes the power of the two major parties.

As of July 1 (at the end of the latest reporting period) his Republican opponent, Mike Pence, had $5.5 million in the bank; his Democratic opponent, John Gregg, had $3 million. Indiana’s current governor, Republican Mitch Daniels, raised more than $19 million for his 2004 campaign and another $17 million for his 2008 re-election bid.

Boneham has one advantage that other minor party and independent candidates don’t: His name will appear on the Indiana ballot. The Libertarian Party won “ballot status” in 1994 by turning out enough voters to meet Indiana’s tough ballot-access laws.

Still, he has a lot of work to do to get people to see him less as the scraggly pirate who won the fan-favorite vote during the 2004 “Survivor: All-Stars” and more as the man who could win their vote for governor.

That’s why he’ll camp out at the State Fair for several more days.

Signing a photo for a very young fan who couldn’t read his writing, he instructed her: “That says, ‘Argh!’ Go home and tell your dad, that’s ‘pirate’ for ‘don’t forget to vote.’ ”

Maureen Hayden is the Indiana Statehouse bureau chief for CNHI, the parent company of the Tribune-Star. She can be reached at maureen.hayden@indianamediagroup.com.

1
Text Only | Photo Reprints
Local & Bistate
Latest News
TribStar.com Poll
AP Video
UN Security Council Calls for MH 17 Crash Probe Raw: Israel Bombs Multiple Targets in Gaza Raw: Plane Lands on New York Highway Raw: Black Boxes of Downed Jetliner Turned Over Obama Bestows Medal of Honor on NH Veteran AP Exclusive: American Beaten in Israel Speaks Texas Sending National Guard Troops to Border Diplomacy Intensifies Amid Mounting Gaza Toll Hopkins to Pay $190M After Pelvic Exams Taped Veteran Creates Job During High Unemployment Raw: 25 Family Members Killed in Gaza Airstrike Raw: International Team Inspects MH17 Bodies New Orleans Plans to Recycle Cigarette Butts Raw: Cargo Craft Undocks From Space Station Raw: Gaza Rescuers Search Rubble for Survivors Recording May Show Attempt at Crash Cover-up 'Weird Al' Is Wowed by Album's Success Foxx Cites Washington 'Circus Mirror' Raw: Gaza City Shelling Attack Bull Run Comes to Middle America
NDN Video
Train Collides With Semi Truck Carrying Lighter Fluid Samsung Pre-Trolls The IPhone 6 With New Ad Guilty Dog Apologizes to Baby for Stealing Her Toy Kanye West Tells-All on Wedding in "GQ" Interview Tony Dungy Weighs in on Michael Sam Scarlett Johansson Set To Marry In August New Star Wars Episode XII X-Wing Revealed Obama: Putin must push separatists to aid MH17 probe Michigan inmates no longer allowed to wear orange due to 'OITNB' Adam Levine Ties the Knot Sebastian The Ibis Walks Beautiful Bride Down The Aisle | ACC Must See Moment NASA Ceremony Honors Moon Walker Neil Armstrong Faces of Souls Lost in Malaysian Plane Crash 105-year-old woman throws first pitch Man Creates Spreadsheet of Wife's Reasons for Turning Down Sex 'Weird Al' Is Wowed by Album's Success Rory McIlroy struggles, surges, wins British Open NOW TRENDING: Real life Pac-Man Explosions as hot air balloon crashes in Clinton DUI Driver Dragged to Safety by Officer After Walking Onto Busy Freeway
Parade
Magazine

Click HERE to read all your Parade favorites including Hollywood Wire, Celebrity interviews and photo galleries, Food recipes and cooking tips, Games and lots more.
  • -

     

    March 12, 2010

activity