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Teri Finneman, Published September 10 2007

The race for the White House

What do a former first lady, a federal inmate and a handyman have in common?

They all want to be your next president.

With the 2008 presidential race in full force, The Forum decided to study who is running for president and how accessible they are.

To our surprise, 186 people were on the Federal Election Commission’s candidate list when we asked for one in July.

Realizing it was ambitious to call them all, we focused on the 39 people who filed statements of candidacy and received contributions of at least $5,000 or spent that much on their campaign.

The list includes U.S. senators, former governors, a real estate broker, a Home Depot employee, a physics professor and the founder of the American Medical Marijuana Association.

During August, phone calls and e-mails went out across the country as we asked for interviews with everyone from Hillary Clinton to federal inmate Keith Russell Judd.

Four candidates dropped out of the race that we knew of, leaving 35 to track down. Of these, 12 called back for interviews, which can be found on Page A4.

Here are interesting tidbits from our efforts:

E Of the major candidates, Democrat Hillary Clinton’s campaign was the first to respond to an interview request. We didn’t get an interview by

Aug. 31, but were told they would keep our information on file for future opportunities.

E Republican Mitt Romney’s camp was also congenial and assured us how much they wanted to get us an interview. We didn’t get one by Aug. 31, though.

E We heard nothing from the other major campaigns, including Republicans Rudy Giuliani and John McCain, and Democrats Barack Obama and John Edwards.

E When talking to Republican Kansas Sen. Sam Brownback’s media office, a spokesman asked if we were Fargo, Iowa. We were later told we would not fit in Brownback’s schedule.

E We attempted to interview federal inmate Keith Russell Judd, but did not get cooperation from the Texas facility where he is incarcerated.

When we called the Texas phone number listed as one of his campaign addresses, we reached the local newspaper, much to their amusement.

Judd, 49, is listed as an Independent. He will not be released from prison until 2013, according to the Federal Bureau of Prisons.

Court documents say he mailed postcards to a woman in 1997 that said, “Send the money back now, Keith Judd, Last Chance or Dead.” He also sent a package containing a semen-stained Playboy and a knife inside the magazine.

Judd contends this did not show intent to extort and did not constitute a threat, according to court documents.

He was sentenced to 210 months in prison. Yet he has labeled himself a presidential candidate since the 1996 election.

E The only candidate on the list we couldn’t get a message to was Bruce Trask in Miami. We called the Reform Party in Florida in hopes it had contact information. But the Reform Party couldn’t find him, either.

So how is it that so many random people can run for president?

“It’s pretty simple as far as declaring,” said presidential hopeful and handyman Joe Schriner of Cleveland. “They say anybody can run for president, but actually winning is a monumental task.”

To be president, candidates must be natural-born citizens who are at least 35 and have resided within the United States for at least 14 years.

To declare candidacy, applicants fill out a Federal Election Commission “statement of candidacy” form, said FEC spokeswoman Michelle Ryan. There isn’t a filing fee.

Candidates aren’t required to register with the FEC until they raise or spend in excess of $5,000, she said.

Each candidate must then designate a principal campaign committee, which must file a “statement of organization” FEC form and file reports of receipts and disbursements.

The hardest part for the candidates is trying to get their name on every state’s ballot, Ryan said. Candidates must call every state to ask what the requirements are.

In North Dakota, getting on the ballot means paperwork and earning an endorsement from a major party recognized in the state, said Lee Ann Oliver, an election specialist in the North Dakota secretary of state’s office.

The state’s major parties are Republican, Democratic, Constitution and Libertarian.

Those who don’t get endorsements must collect 4,000 resident signatures to get on the ballot, Oliver said. Or, they can run as a write-in candidate.

In Minnesota, minor parties must turn in a petition with 2,000 valid signatures of eligible voters to get on the ballot. Minnesota’s major parties are Republican, Democratic and Independence.

The protocol to get on the ballot in each state is “extremely daunting” without a political party machine, said Schriner of Cleveland.

So why still run?

“We actually think we can win,” he said.

The list

Below is a list of the 35 presidential candidates The Forum contacted, based on information provided by the Federal Election Commission in July.

- Daniel Barnett, Republican, Greenwood Village, Colo.

- Joseph Biden Jr., Democrat, Wilmington, Del.

- Dewey Broughman, Republican, Buchanan, Va.

- Samuel Brownback, Republican, Topeka, Kan.

- Hillary Clinton, Democrat, Washington, D.C.

- John Cox, Republican, Chicago, Ill.

- Chris Dodd, Democrat, West Hartford, Conn.

- John Edwards, Democrat, Chapel Hill, N.C.

- Rudy Giuliani, Republican, New York City

- Mike Gravel, Democrat, Arlington, Va.

- Al Hamburg, Independent, Torrington, Wyo.

- Mike Huckabee, Republican, Little Rock, Ark.

- Duncan Hunter, Republican, La Mesa, Calif.

- Daniel Imperato, Independent, West Palm Beach, Fla.

- Mike Jingozian, Libertarian, Sherwood, Ore.

- Keith Russell Judd, Independent, Beaumont, Texas

- Steven Kubby, Libertarian, Lake Arrowhead, Calif.

- Dennis Kucinich, Democrat, Cleveland

- John McCain, Republican, Phoenix

- James McCall, Independent, Toledo, Ohio

- Barack Obama, Democrat, Chicago

- Ron Paul, Republican, Clute, Texas

- George Phillies, Libertarian, Worcester, Mass.

- Bill Richardson, Democrat, Albuquerque, N.M.

- Mitt Romney, Republican, Boston

- Paul Rosenberger, Unknown, Carpinteria, Calif.

- Joseph Schriner, Independent, Cleveland

- Jack Shepard, Republican, Rome and St. Paul

- Christine Smith, Libertarian, Golden, Colo.

- Michael Smith, Republican, Corvallis, Ore.

- Richard Smith, Republican, Euless, Texas

- Tom Tancredo, Republican, Littleton, Colo.

- Bruce Trask, Reform, Miami

- Lanakila Washington, Independent, Bronx, N.Y.

- Vern Wuensche, Republican, Houston

Readers can reach Forum reporter Teri Finneman at (701) 241-5560