What do former Virginia Gov. Jim Gilmore, former Rhode Island Sen. Lincoln Chafee and a crawfish have in common?
All three are hoping to become president of the United States.
Beyond the Clintons, Bushes, Trumps and other well-traveled names of the 2016 presidential race, there are others. Some you may have heard of in passing, like Gilmore and Chafee. But they get scant attention and some are relegated to second-tier debates that few watch or attend.
Then there are others that are proof of, yes: Just about anybody, or anything, can run for president. Even a crustacean best known for being boiled up with lemon, garlic and bay leaf, or swimming in a bowl of fiery gumbo.
“Crawfish, Crawfish,” according the Federal Election Commission filing, is running as an independent (“One Nation Under Claws”), just one of nearly 900 hopefuls seeking the White House. The Louisianan, whose Facebook page lists more than 27,000 “likes,” told Gambit, a New Orleans newspaper and website, that it’s running because, “I know what it's like to not have a voice. Literally.”
Other less prominent 2016 campaigns include “Ronald Reagan’s Ghost,” “Rocky Balboa” and “Captain Crunch,” whose treasurer, according to his FEC form is – wait for it – “Count Chocula.”
None of the campaigns boast “official” candidates; you need to raise at least $5,000 to be designated as such, according to federal rules.
Those include some pretty experienced politicians and others of some note – former New York Gov. George Pataki, for instance – who are fighting to get traction in the saturated political race.
I’ve driven to Iowa twice . . . because I can’t afford to fly.
Democratic presidential hopeful Lincoln Chafee
It can happen.
Karlyn Bowman, a senior fellow at the conservative American Enterprise Institute, said presidential campaigns can take unpredictable turns.
Front-runners can stumble. Super PACs can shell out millions to lift someone’s candidacy. Outsiders like independent Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont or real estate tycoon Donald Trump can show surprising staying power.
Bowman doesn’t think all the candidates, at least on the Republican side, will be actively involved in the race by February or March, leaving some “conceivable openings.”
“All bets are off on what might happen,” she said.
That’s what Gilmore, Chafee, Pataki and others with political experience, like Jim Webb, a former Democratic senator from Virginia, Navy secretary and assistant secretary of defense, are likely betting on.
“I haven’t been governor since 2002,” Gilmore said. “I haven’t been promoted by anything like the Huckabee television show or the Trump television show. So my job is to get known and to have my positions known.”
He was referring to former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, another of the 17 GOP hopefuls and a former television host on Fox.
Gilmore said he is running a “very lean candidacy.”
“It’s not because I’m going to buy the race, but because I’m going to win the race based upon the ideas of experience,” Gilmore said. “That might sound naive, but the fact is if this race could be bought for money, (Republican hopeful and former Florida Gov.) Jeb Bush would have bought it already.”
On the Democratic side, Chafee is one of only four contenders, with Hillary Clinton, a former first lady, U.S. senator and secretary of state, as the front-runner.
Chafee’s resume checks a lot of boxes: He was mayor of Warwick, R.I., served in the U.S. Senate as a Republican, won election as governor of his state as an independent and is now running for president as a Democrat.
“I have three children and I care deeply about their future and by extension, all the Americans and where we’re going in the world,” Chafee said.
Chafee is self-funding his presidential bid with nearly $365,000. He has received just under $30,000 in individual contributions, according to the FEC.
So no showy campaign jets for the Chafee campaign. “I’ve driven to Iowa twice . . . because I can’t afford to fly,” he said
Chafee intends to compete until his campaign no longer seems viable. While his money and organization pale compared to his competition, “there’s no other candidate that’s running, Republican or Democrat, that has my experience,” he said.
Perhaps. But has he ever been the star of a bowl of gumbo?
The Medill News Service is a Washington program of the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University.