by Kevin Taylor & r & & r & & lt;span class= & quot;dropcap & quot; & A & lt;/span & ndy Hedden-Nicely has been lead-footing around Idaho highways in an effort to gain enough speed and momentum to break the sort of barriers that would make Evel Knievel blanch.
Trouble is, Hedden-Nicely has only a beater RV -- Camper One he calls it -- and a carafe full of jellybeans to try and whirl up Big Mo to liftoff velocity. And just as when Evel tried to clear the Snake River, people are already starting to avert their eyes. Hedden-Nicely is, after all, attempting to jump from here to D.C. as a third-party candidate for Congress.
Paste your favorite Wile E. Coyote image here.
Hedden-Nicely sent out some e-mails and phone messages the other week, trying to set up a meeting while thundering the North Idaho byways in Camper One from Moscow to Coeur d'Alene to Sandpoint to Priest River to Post Falls, where he stopped to top his tanks with hash browns, bacon and eggs.
He was at the Breakfast Nook in Post Falls, musing aloud at the choices. "There's a good breakfast, a good healthy breakfast," he says approvingly, "... and then there's a breakfast that's good." He slaps the menu down and decisively goes for the grease.
Hedden-Nicely is running for Congress in Idaho's 1st District against Democrat Larry Grant, a former Micron lawyer, and Bill Sali, who is such a maniac that even fellow Republicans are tempted to feed him to crocodiles.
There is also Constitutionalist Paul Smith and Independent Dave Olson from St. Maries, the guys Hedden-Nicely -- running as the United Party candidate -- is often lumped with. You know: The also-rans. The "nice-try" club.
Hedden-Nicely is fed up with this and says so heatedly, even as his canines tear into the bacon strips. He and other small-party candidates are largely stiffed by newspaper editorial boards, are afterthoughts when it comes to debates, pushed to the margins and told they don't count.
It's tough to get out your message when sometimes the only person who can hear it is the guy sitting in the spray vector of your hash browns.
And it's tough to compete when the playing field, according to Federal Elections Commission campaign finance reports, is tilted like this:
4 Hedden-Nicely has raised $15,771 in campaign funds ($8,000 from himself) and has little more than $1,000 left in the bank. Camper One could guzzle that in the haul from breakfast to lunch.
4 Grant has raised $420,725 (including $15,000 from himself) and has $72,000 left. It's also possible he could get some of the $323,000 in 11th-hour ad buys the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has purchased in the Spokane TV market, a DCCC staffer says.
4 Sali has raised $872,206, putting in zero of his own money, and has $113,231 left in the bank. He has also made the Endangered List of 33 candidates the Republican National Committee is trying to save with last-minute cash infusions.
"People tell me it's impossible; that an independent can't win. I'm planning on winning this race. That would really piss [the major parties] off," Hedden-Nicely says.
& lt;span class= & quot;dropcap & quot; & "P & lt;/span & eople might say I'm not very realistic. But when you see voter turnout was less than 25 percent in the primary -- that should tell both parties people are sick of them. Sixty-five percent of voters in Idaho call themselves independents. Those are the people I'm counting on."
What Hedden-Nicely is counting on is breaking a barrier into territory considered "impossible." He brings up not Evel Kneivel, but Roger Bannister. The lanky Englishman in 1954 was the first human to run a 4-minute mile, a feat considered physically impossible by the experts of the day.
An independent winning a major race "is the equivalent of running the 4-minute mile," Hedden-Nicely says. "People say an independent won't get elected in our lifetime. Once I break that barrier, it opens opportunities for all kinds of people -- and that's what the Republicans and Democrats are so afraid of."
Hedden-Nicely is a 51-year-old Oklahoman who moved to Boise and started an alt-weekly newspaper (The Boise Weekly) there in the early 1990s (something else he was told to be impossible, he says). He used to be a Democrat but now he sees no difference between the major parties in terms of money-grubbing, power-grabbing and rigid partisanship.
"The Democrats and Republicans are like yams and sweet potatoes arguing over who's the better vegetable at Thanksgiving," Hedden-Nicely says. "The Democrats controlled the Senate when we invaded Iraq. They coulda stopped it, but they didn't. The Democrats controlled Congress when the Patriot Act was passed. They coulda stopped it, but they didn't."
Locally, he says the Democrats keep running doomed congressional candidates -- insipid lawyers, mostly, he says -- and have completely lost the pulse of the district.
"The Democratic Party is, in my opinion, inept and backwards-thinking. So I started my own party," he says.
That would be the United Party, which Hedden-Nicely intends to grow as a third party with major-party cred.
"The trouble with most third parties is they are extremist wackos. Look at the Constitutionalists, the Libertarians and, frankly, the Greens," Hedden-Nicely says. "I want a party for normal people. I find most people out there are a little bit country and a little bit rock 'n' roll."
People with balanced lives should not have to pick a political party that's monolithic, rigid and dogmatic. Democrats are too big government; Republicans too big business. Each is inflexible in its own way, he says.
"I want a party that's radically inclusive -- that welcomes all viewpoints -- because I feel that's where good ideas come from. Good ideas don't come from big business or big government. They come from small groups of people who care," Hedden-Nicely says.
Here are a few of the ideas that Hedden-Nicely pitches: "We should offer free tuition to all college students. The way it's set up now is to serve the finance industry so they can place these kids in servitude while they are young."
In return for the free college, he says students "commit to two years of service to the country." Hedden-Nicely isn't sure if the national service would include military service, but he adds that he's against reinstating the draft.
The country needs to find a sensible health plan, he says. "Right now, the poorest people use emergency rooms for their health care because the ERs have to take them. So as a society we are forcing the poorest among us to use the most expensive health care."
The insurance lobby, he contends, has repeatedly blocked sensible measures that would allow small businesses to pool coverage and make health care affordable.
"And what do Democrats and Republicans do? The bill has gone back and forth for five years, and they just point fingers at each other," Hedden-Nicely says.
He would also scale back tax cuts for the wealthiest among us. "The super-rich get way too many breaks right now. It is bad, in America, to have a sitting class of rich people."
Plus, Hedden-Nicely says, the only thing worse than a tax-and-spend Democrat is a cut taxes-and-still spend Republican. "People can take this government back ... but it's going to take energy," he says.
And Hedden-Nicely has found that running an "impossible" campaign takes the same, yet has surprising payoffs. "I really cut down on my drinking to do this," he says, "because I need the energy. I can't wake up hung over. I used to like to drink."