It used to be a charming feature of our American political system: every couple of years, the bright lights of the campaign season would lure all the fringe showmen and hapless shysters out of the woods and into the electoral swamp’s shimmery waters. We’d gawk with perverse delight at every weirdo who scurried out of his or her muck hut to challenge all those snore-inducing, emotionally stable, otherwise reasonably qualified professional politicos. It was entertaining, of course, but most reasonable people assumed that no amount of shock value or plain disdain for the process could ever justify voting for one of them. Even if the rent really was too damn high, so was the risk.
Then in 2016, we picked the host of NBC’s The Apprentice to be our new leader.
Credit at least one man for knowing that was a bad idea: former Massachusetts governor and current Utah senate hopeful Mitt Romney. Sturdy ole Mitt, ever steadfast in his stodgy principles, somehow predicted way back in twenty-aught-sixteen that electing a failed casino owner to run our country would lead to our present-day catastrophe.
“A phony!” he decried.
“A fraud!” he exclaimed.
Romney didn’t get the job. But then the plucky centimillionaire scoped out a new opportunity in the Senate, when Orrin Hatch vacated his long-held perch as Utah’s senior senator. “Come on in, the water’s fine,” Romney gleefully declared after dipping his toes in the water.
Sure enough, the misfits scurried out in droves. All in all, 13 Republicans have filed to join Romney in the race for the U.S. Senate in Utah. Back in the day, we all might’ve had a hearty chortle at the expense of this sordid lot of underdogs before briskly moving onto thorough speculation about Romney’s strengths and weaknesses in the general election. But that was prior to 2016, when over a dozen mostly-lucid adult humans lost the GOP presidential nomination to a creepy beauty pageant organizer and occasional WrestleMania participant.
So let’s take one close look at each of these 14 candidates. Because, clearly, we can’t afford not to anymore.
Abe Lincoln Brian Jenkins
Brian Jenkins knows he’ll have to rely on a little chicanery to get past the immensely popular Mitt Romney, whom he has preemptively accused of “purchasing signatures” to get his name on the primary ballot. So Jenkins has shrewdly decided to run his entire campaign in character as the immensely popular Abraham Lincoln, chin whiskers and all. In case the Senate campaign falters, Jenkins already appears to have a backup plan: to work as a professional Lincoln impersonator. You can book Jenkins’ services at a different website, where he bills himself as “quite possibly the most look-alike Lincoln on the planet today.”
I spent a whole lot of time trying to figure out who Jay Hiatt is, what he does for a living, and why he’s running for U.S. Senate. What I’ve gathered is that he and his wife Amy churn out right-wing internet content at superhuman quantities on multiple social media accounts. Hiatt’s LinkedIn page links to several suspended Twitter accounts, including this NSFW spam account that’s still active.
Jeremy Friedbaum is constantly running for office. In 2000, according to the Deseret News, he ran for Utah governor and fasted for 39 days to protest his exclusion from gubernatorial debates. He dramatically broke his fast with grape juice and a loaf of Subway’s classic Italian bread as an audience member at the one of the final debates. Said one attendee to the Utah paper, "I was interested in his issues as a candidate but when he started crying, it turned me off."
Les Titus likes to go by “CAPI.” As he explains in his campaign announcement post on Facebook, it’s “an hispanic nickname” he was once affectionately given by a friend, short for “Capitan.” Titus, who is on a mission to institute congressional term limits, hopes to raise $100,000 for his campaign on GoFundMe. As of two months ago, he was still trying to figure out how to add the link to his social media accounts.
“Utah voters have a choice,” a Larry Meyers campaign ad voiceover sneers. “Mitt Romney’s liberal Massachusetts values, or qualified conservative Larry Meyers.” Meyer is a lawyer and two-time GOP delegate to the National Convention whose professed priority is protecting “our God-given rights, including the right to bear arms, freedom of speech, and religious liberty.” Meyers’ wife Marlee is no politician, but she too enjoys invoking historical fictions as a Kindle-published novelist.
Joshua C. Lee
Josh Lee’s campaign is off to a slow start: he has no campaign website (that I could find), no social media outreach, and an extremely generic name. Aside from that, it looks like he runs a construction firm that makes "Epik" walls, and has good taste in corrective eyewear.
Retired businessman with a demonstrated political track record as a former Massachusetts governor and one prior unsuccessful bid for the U.S. Senate under his belt, in addition to one for the presidency. Keep an eye on this rising star.
Loy Brunson may or may not become a senator, but either way he definitely wants you to buy his “revolutionary e-book,” where he claims to have discovered a hidden message in the Constitution that no one else has ever noticed in over two centuries (huge if true). You can listen to his 22-minute sales pitch for it here, complete with stirring background music — or watch him literally trumpet Trump’s cause over here. Pick your poison.
Remember this viral monstrosity? Mike Kennedy probably wishes we didn’t. (Check in at the 13-second mark for Kennedy’s contribution.) While he’s no Dr. Dre, Kennedy is at least an actual doctor, a fact that he hams up at every opportunity. However, in his candidacy filing, his medical honorific is suspiciously crossed out. Alright then, “Doctor” Kennedy. Can we call you “Mike?”
Alicia Colvin is the only woman vying for the GOP nomination, and at 30 years old, she just meets the Constitutional age requirement for the Senate. At a recent debate of GOP candidates (sans Romney), Colvin introduced herself as “running on a platform of moderation, balance, and building bridges.” True to her word, this mild-mannered quality assurance professional in the healthcare industry refused to bash Romney for any reason at all when given the chance, saying instead that she merely wished “to listen to the people and create a more civil society.”
Samuel B. Parker
Sam Parker is none too impressed with Mitt Romney’s ties to Utah, calling him a “Cape-Cod Carpetbagger” on his website. Parker publicly touts his experience working for the Chicago Cubs as one of his professional qualifications. According to his own LinkedIn profile, Parker worked for the Cubs for two months, in 2007. As a “Baseball Operations Intern.”
If you love royalty-free illustrations and smiling is your favorite, then Stoney Fonua might be your man. There’s so much to unpack on Fonua’s cheesy, clip art-laden Facebook page. I’ll bring your attention to a couple of his posts: “Estate Creation,” a pseudo-religious program for relieving all personal debts that he anticipates “should be running as a perfect vision for the next 1,000 years to come” by 2020; “Infrared World War III,” where he imagines a new kind of warfare in which soldiers play laser tag and paintball instead of fighting; and a modest suggestion that White House Chief of Staff John Kelly be more like Michael J. Fox’s character on “Spin City.”
Justifying his pro-life stance on abortion, Jimenez claims that fornication is less about love-making and more about baby-making: “To engage in an act that for 6,000 to 1.2 billion years has created new life, and then act surprised by the creation of life is the very definition of ignorance,” he writes on his website. This begs the question: at what point between 3,982 B.C. and 1,199,997,982 B.C. did sex stop being fun for Tim Jimenez?
Remember Brian Jenkins, the guy who’s trying to make believe he’s Abe Lincoln for his entire senate campaign? Torrey is his nephew. But instead of pretending to be a former president, it looks like Torrey has decided to run as the guy you used to hotbox with in his van while listening to O.A.R. CDs. Same family, different strokes, and equal odds of becoming a United States Senator.