Jerry Davich: Libertarian candidate for governor - ‘I am who I am’
Jerry Davich firstname.lastname@example.org September 7, 2012 5:08PM
ProEdge Inc. owner Bert Bell (left) talks with Libertarian candidate for governor Rupert Boneham (right) during Boneham's campaign stop at ProEdge in Shelby, Ind. Friday September 7, 2012. | Stephanie Dowell~Sun-Times Media
Updated: October 9, 2012 3:02PM
Rupert Boneham strolled up to every worker in sight at ProEdge Inc. in Shelby, offering a firm handshake, a broad smile and the gift of gab.
“Hi, I’m Rupert Boneham, nice to meet you,” he told each one squarely and sincerely.
But that’s about the only similarity in the campaign patter he shared with each of them during his swing through Northwest Indiana on Friday morning.
Boneham (pronounced Bone-em) is the Libertarian candidate for Indiana governor and, like most Hoosiers, I knew very little about him before we met.
His first stop with his 35-foot “It’s Our Time” campaign RV was in Shelby, a tiny dot on any map but the business home of Bert Bell, secretary of the Libertarian Party of Lake County.
Unfortunately, more doughnuts and coffee cups greeted Boneham than voters and residents, but that didn’t deter him from making the best of things. He happily toured the small factory, which employs 25 workers, shook every hand he found, and chatted briefly about various issues, including small business initiatives.
“Just comin’ in to say hey,” he chirped to two female office workers. “Sorry to interrupt you.”
The 48-year-old lifelong Hoosier used several different incarnations to introduce himself, from his community mentoring program called “Rupert’s Kids” to his three appearances on the popular reality TV show “Survivor.”
“Have you ever watched ‘Survivor’?” he asked one worker.
No, the woman politely replied.
“Well, my candidacy for governor is a new form of ‘Survivor,’ but it’s a lot more serious,” he relied without missing a beat.
Boneham also fancies himself a modern-day pirate of sorts, heroically throwing overboard any of Indiana’s elected officials who’ve forgotten why they’re in office.
“To help the people of this great state,” he told another worker as Ted Nugent’s “Cat Scratch Fever” played from a nearby radio.
Boneham even signs his autograph on T-shirts, books, or posters with “Aaaaarrrrgghh,” pirate-speak for “hello” or “thank you,” he tells curious voters. But his “Aaaaarrrrgh” while on the campaign trail means, “Don’t forget to vote!” he told me.
Excited about everything
Boneham sported his trademark tie-dyed T-shirt underneath his, appropriately, blue-collared shirt, framing a thick mustache, big beard and dark wavy hair. He has penetrating eyes, smartly used to make direct eye-to-eye contact with everyone he meets. Regardless of what he says, from state politics to home furnishing, you come away convinced he really means it.
Politics aside, it’s hard not to like him.
“It’s tough for me to stay on schedule. I’m a talker,” he said, confirming the obvious as his campaign manager reminded him of the time.
On Nov. 6, Boneham will face off against Republican challenger U.S. Rep. Mike Pence and Democrat John Gregg to replace Gov. Mitch Daniels. No one expects Boneham to win, including me, but he obviously hasn’t received the memo. And thankfully so. It’s inspiring to watch him in action.
“It’s been a fun day so far,” he told me, noting he left Indy at 7 a.m. (6 a.m. our time) and he probably won’t return until early Saturday morning.
His other stops on Friday included the Aspen Cafe in St. John and The Charley Horse restaurant in Munster where “Rupert will discuss the issues and listen to your concerns for Indiana,” a press release stated.
In Munster, Boneham took part in a charity Texas Hold ’Em poker game as a bounty player, prompting him to reveal that he has created his own poker game. It’s on hold while he runs for governor, but he was excited to talk about it. Then again, he seems excited to talk about anything, especially his longtime role working with young offenders in the court system. Or his Park Adoption Program in Indy, saving taxpayers $150,000 in recent years, he says.
Boneham also runs a production company, Tournament Towers, and when he was voted “fan favorite” on “Survivor,” with a $1 million award, he donated $270,000 to charity ($480,000 went toward taxes).
“We paid our taxes, took care of our family, and then helped to take care of our community,” he said. “I was living all my life as a Libertarian and I didn’t even know it.”
Wants to visit all 92 counties
Boneham grew up in Kokomo and has lived in Indianapolis for the past 21 years with his wife of 14 years, Laura, and daughter, Raya. He doesn’t read from any scripts (paper or mental), and I think a Teleprompter would only infuriate him.
“I don’t always use the same exact verbiage to explain the same exact answer,” he said proudly, a jab at overly polished politicians.
His colorful 2001 leased RV, which he drives himself, takes about $150 to fill up, and he uses an empty red gas container for donations: “Help Rupert Fuel His Campaign.”
“We’re on campaign tour two and a half,” said his campaign manager, Evan McMahon, who dressed as informally as his boss, which I loved.
McMahon told me about half of the Hoosiers they meet across the state recognize Boneham from his “Survivor” fame. But only one-eighth of them know anything about the Libertarian Party, its tenants or principles.
“We’re fiscally conservative and socially liberal,” he explained, kindly dumbing it down for me. “We take the best from both other parties, in essence. But there are a lot of misconceptions out there on the campaign trail.”
If you want to learn more about Boneham’s stance on jobs, spending, education, or other platform issues, visit http://rupertforgovernor.com, call (317) 643-4090, or write to him at Rupert For Governor, P.O. Box 44605, Indianapolis, IN 46244.
“I am who I am,” Boneham said in his unique pirate-Popeye speak, shaking one worker’s hand four times before moving on.
Boneham’s campaign goal is to host an event in all 92 counties, if anything to gather more than a handful of voters at the same time. Otherwise, he ends up talking to the unflinching sound of crickets, literally, as he did on Friday morning in Shelby.
Listen to Rupert Boneham on Jerry’s “Casual Fridays” radio show this Friday at noon on WLPR, 89.1-FM, streaming at www.thelakeshorefm.com.