Vampires and Prohibitionists for President

He calls himself a "vampyre" and claims he's been drinking blood since age five. He also wants to be your next president.

Jonathon "The Impaler" Sharkey is running unchallenged for the Vampire, Witches and Pagan Party 2008 presidential nomination.

Most Americans would have a hard time naming the 19 more-or-less official candidates, but, in fact, there are hundreds of Americans running on third-party and independent tickets.

Sharkey is running on an "impale criminals" platform.

Gene Amondson, a preacher, supports prohibition.

"Average Joe" Schriner is making his third bid as a, simply put, average Joe.

"If you count those who run in the primary, and those who are write-in candidates and are actually making an effort to run, you have 200 or 300 candidates each cycle," said Ron Gunzburger, the publisher of Politics1.com, a site that tracks both the mainstream and lesser-known contenders.

Even a campaign some would call a joke takes a lot of work. These candidates file Federal Elections Commission paperwork, petition to get on ballots, and traverse the nation trying to drum up support. And for their months of effort they will not even come close to one percent of the vote.

Gunzburger has a few theories on why the outsiders run.

"I think some of them have sincere messages and contribute to the debate," he said. "Some of them are the class clowns who miss the attention since high school finished. And some are running because mom told them they are special, and they believe it still."

Sharkey claims he's "in it to win it." Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y., used the same line in her announcement, but Sharkey is willing to share. He said he would welcome Mrs. Clinton as a running mate.

"I expect to win because I think the American people are tired of living in fear," Sharkey said. "America has a chance to put somebody in office that people will fear."

He recognizes his downfalls -- being a Satanist for one -- but he thinks the American people will respond to him "once they get past the fact that I'm a non-Christian. Actually I'm anti-Christian."

At the other end of the spectrum is mild-mannered preacher Gene Amondson. He ran for president in 2004 as part of the Prohibition Party, which has been fielding presidential candidates for 135 years.

"Third party people are dreamers, but we yell out there to make a point," he said. "I speak all over the country on why prohibition was America's best 13 years."

Amondson said his party's membership has dwindled to about 150 people and, "most of them don't even have a pulse," but his goal is simply to get as much media as he did in his last race.

Others have similarly modest goals, like getting on the ballot. That means gathering large numbers of signatures and filing mountains of paperwork.

Although this is his third run, "Average Joe" Schriner expects to get his name on just one ballot -- Ohio. In the past, he's settled on being "an official write-in candidate."

Amondson was on the ballot in two states in 2004 -- Colorado and Louisiana, which helped him get a few thousand votes nationwide. This time, he hopes to see his name in print in five states.

Ever the optimist, Sharkey plans to have offices in all 50 states and plans to see his name on all 50 ballots.

There is one outsider in this race who could have a real chance, if he runs. This week New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg left the Republican Party, fanning rumors that he is planning an independent presidential bid. He denies it, but he is getting lots of press attention anyway.

That is not true of the other outsiders. But Gail Parker, a grandmother running for the Green Party nomination, doesn't mind.

"Participating is winning," she said.

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